«Inter duas potestates»: The Religious Policy of Theoderic the Great

by Monika Ożóg (Author)
Monographs 271 Pages

Table Of Content

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The present book is a revised and enlarged English translation of the Polish edition, published by Wydawnictwo WAM, Cracow, in late 2012, which served as the basis for the fulfilment of the requirements for my post-doctoral degree in Ancient History.

I would like to extend my thanks to the reviewer of this study, Professor Jerzy Strzelczyk (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan), who is an outstanding expert in the history of the Goths, for his valuable comments and positive publishing review. I would also like to thank Professor Marek Wilczyński (Pedagogical University of Cracow) for his valuable text regarding the thesis below, due to whom I could correct the flaws that were inevitable in the Polish edition. Words of gratitude and appreciation are also due to Professor Henryk Pietras SJ (Pontifical Gregorian University, Roma) for his constant encouragement to focus on the study of this subject.

Last but not least, I would like to say ‘thank you’ to my husband, Kazimierz Sebastian, for his presence, my children, Kacper and Sabina Zuzanna, for their patience, and my parents, for their help and assistance in everyday duties.

I am also very thankful to all those who cannot be stated here by name, but who contributed to the creation of this book by their help, patience and, most of all, by their kindness.

And this point I can only express my hope that this book will make a modest contribution to the body of the scholarly publications devoted to the figure of Theoderic the Great.

All translations of source texts that are not marked by name come from myself and the translation of this thesis.

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The period following the fall of the Western Roman Empire was a very specific time in Europe’s history. In the West, Catholic Christianity had been gradually becoming a privileged religion, with the consolidation of the metropolitan structure of the Western Church and the growing authority of the Church of Rome. It was then, between the 5th and 6th century that the subsequent powers started to evolve. Among those entities, the newly founded civilitas in Italy came under the authority of Theoderic, a descendant of the Amali family, one of the more powerful rulers in Late Antiquity who would come to set the stage for the advent of a new era. He was born ca. 452/3, the son of Theodemir and Ereleuva. At the age of eight, he was sent to Constantinople, where he would spend ten years at the emperor Leo I’s court. The time at the capital provided him with the opportunities to receive some education and learn new skills. He considered the acquisition of his first dominion, the city of Singidunum (Belgrade) as the beginning of his reign, but he would formally assume the power in the Ostrogoth state only after his father’s death in 474. The seizure of Ravenna by the Ostrogoths and the subsequent death of Odoacer marked the founding of the Ostrogoth kingdom in Italy (493). King Theoderic died on 26 August 526 at Ravenna.

In one of his letters addressed to the emperor, Pope Gelasius, whose four-year-long pontificate took place during the reigns of the emperor Anastasius and Theoderic the Great, made reference to a fact that he held to be obvious: “Venerable Emperor, there are two [authorities] whose rule is supreme in this world: the authority of the holy papacy and the royal power.”1 In this case, “royal” would signify as much as “imperial.” Regardless of the specific pontiffs and emperors at a given time, the king of the Ostrogoths had to cope with the situation arising from this precarious position between the two great domains of authority, hence the first part of the title of the present book, inter duas potestates. All the measures and actions undertaken by the king had to take into account the existence of these two centres of power, i.e., the See of Rome and the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. It would be of particular relevance to Theoderic’s religious policy in view of the increasingly significant social and political role of the bishops of Rome, while the emperor at Constantinople considered himself ← 9 | 10 → to be the supreme head of the Church (and was acknowledged as such). I have attempted to show how the king would make efforts to succeed in taking advantage of the more or less evident conflicts of interest between the two centres of authority. It should be noted that the present study does not intend to depict the socio-economic position of Rome during the pontificates of the popes in question, to provide a biographical account of Theoderic’s life and achievements, as all of these subjects have already been well discussed in a number of very good scholarly publications. I believe there is no reason to reiterate the contents that can be easily found elsewhere.

Another noteworthy, and crucially important, factor is the king’s Arian faith, regarded as the Goths’ “national” religion and an integral element of their identity. Arianism placed Theoderic in opposition to the emperor and the pope, but, on the other hand, it would provide him with a neutral stance in relation to the disputes between the two. The king endeavoured to buttress his political position by forming an Arian coalition of Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, and Burgundians, consolidating this project with several marriages between the women of his family (notably, his daughters and sisters) and his allies.

Significantly, Theoderic would not take action against Catholic Christianity, and his Arian faith would not deter him from visiting Rome or maintaining good relations with the popes. In many of his appointment letters and other documents he would speak against religious conflicts and persecutions that erupted between the Arian Goths and Catholic Romans, apparently contrary to the ruler’s will. It is often in this context that the argument of the exemplary religious tolerance prevailing in Theoderic’s kingdom would be raised, even though it is anachronistic as it seems that the actual purpose of this tolerant religious policy would be his concern for preserving the status quo and the proper balance among the Catholic Romans, Arian Goths, and Jews with their rights affirmed by many emperors in the past.

In order to address the question of Theoderic’s involvement in the religious affairs of his state and his relations (as an Arian) with Christians and followers of other religions, it is necessary to take into consideration which political and cultural aspects engendered that interest and determined the prospects for his actions. Moreover, to what extent could Theoderic’s methods of exercising his authority have been conditioned by his affiliation with the Gothic traditions or, possibly, by the expectations of the Roman population of Italy and the imperial court circles of Constantinople? The coincidence of so many currents of culture and political circumstances in the broader context of this protagonist and the contemporary events is a particularly complex phenomenon. ← 10 | 11 →

In the preface to his book published in 2005, M. Vitiello refers to the need for a more exhaustive study, despite many scholarly publications dedicated to the period in question.2 It appears that the Liber Pontificalis with its biographies of the popes whose pontificates were contemporaneous with Theoderic’s reign, from Felix III3 (483–492) to Felix IV (526–530) could serve as the key source in the light of which all the other extant literary evidence could be discussed. The authors (author) of this source were concerned, perhaps more than anyone else, with the impact of the secular authorities on religious matters, taking note of generous concessions made by the rulers as well as instances of the suffering inflicted on the faithful. To put it briefly, the LP is a highly biased source, which, paradoxically, is exactly the reason it could be used as a sort of a good “guide” through the period. It is certainly true that some events may change the course of history, but such a process could be even more influenced by specific accounts of those occurrences (and the more biased they are, the more effective they may prove to be).

In consequence, I would like to take a closer look at the contents of the Liber Pontificalis with the aim of discussing all the records relating to Theoderic as well as the differences in relation to the other relevant sources, drawing conclusions on what is absent in the work. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that this source is not an ordinary chronicle, as it conveys a definitely “ideological” message designed to communicate a specific view of Theoderic, and the contemporary popes, to the posterity. Another significant argument in favour of this particular source is the fact that it is often ignored in the research on Theoderic; for example, the leading prosopography makes no reference to the Liber Pontificalis in the section on the king.4

I have chosen to use the name “Theoderic” throughout the present study (the variant “Theodoric” can be found in many publications as well),5 because of the presence of this form of the name in two of the most important sources, ← 11 | 12 → Cassiodorus and the Excerpta Valesiana. Jordanes, who wrote his Getica on the basis of Cassiodorus’ work, changed the form of the name to “Theodoric,” but the reason for his choice remains unknown. The Greek form used in Procopius’ work is Θευδεριχος, and the king would use this form of the name himself, as attested by the multiplum of Senigalla, bearing an inscription with his image.6

1. Method

I have chosen the Liber Pontificalis as the primary source to be followed, which has necessarily dictated a certain measure of dependence upon this particular work. In consequence, I proceed to discuss Theoderic’s decisions and actions in the chronological order of the individual pontificates, even though this method yields chapters of very different, at times widely varying, lengths. However, it would depend on the lengths of the individual pontificates and the weight of the issues attended to and resolved by the king in agreement, or with no co-operation, with the popes. It results in the chapter arrangement in the order of the successive pontificates: II – Felix III; III – Gelasius; IV – Anastasius II; V – Symmachus; VI – Hormisdas; VII – John I; VIII – Felix IV.

Assigning this pivotal role to the Liber Pontificalis (with certain exceptions as mentioned below) has imposed some limitations on the author of the present study. For instance, some of the crucial problems related to the king’s religious policy recurring throughout his 30-year-long reign have to reappear in as many as several chapters. At a first glance, it could give the reader an impression of the presence of some unnecessary repetitions in the course of the chapters, which could have very likely been avoided if the structure of the book had been oriented on the particular problems rather than on the pontificates. On the other hand, Theoderic would undertake to deal with the same, or very similar, issues differently depending on the circumstances originating from the reign of each individual emperor or the pontificate of each individual pope.

It has been my intention to discuss various aspects of Theoderic’s politics inter duas potestates in their specific, historically conditioned forms. Besides, selecting ← 12 | 13 → any other source as the primary one would have possibly created a different set of limitations.

Apart from the material and chapter arrangement concept drawn from the Liber Pontificalis, the present work contains two chapters that seem to be of particular importance in the broader context of the subject-matter, but these questions could not have been adequately discussed on the basis of the Liber Pontificalis alone, namely the Arian faith of the Goths in general, and of Theoderic in particular (ch. I) and the so-called Edict of Theoderic, which is very likely a document of Ostrogoth provenance. The edict serves as the source basis for the final chapter (ch. IX); in my opinion, the important contents of this document, such as many precepts concerning religious issues (ius asyli, de heredibus clericorum, interdictio sacrifici ritu pagano, violatio sepulcri) could not have been omitted in a comprehensive account of this topic. As I have pointed out, the question of the authorship of the LP continues to be a subject of scholarly research, hence it has been necessary to include a section dealing with this topic.

Theoderic’s religious policy is best reflected in his approach to the “Laurentian” and “Acacian” schisms. Although the former one may be regarded as a controversy within the Church of Rome, the political dispute between the followers and opponents of a reconciliation with Constantinople (at odds with Rome amid the so-called “Acacian schism”) could be clearly seen at its inception. It would be difficult to approach these two schisms separately, with no attention to the chronology of the events, in the context of a discussion of Theoderic’s religious policy. For this reason, I have clearly marked out the individual stages of these two largely overlapping controversies.

During the research work done in preparation for the writing of this study, I had several opportunities to present some of the conclusions as part of articles and conference papers, with the reservation that they would form part of a more comprehensive treatment of the subject. The information concerning such publications and papers can be found in footnotes.7

2. The Liber Pontificalis as a primary source

It is not my intention to suggest that the Liber Pontificalis could be treated as a fundamental source for the research into the figure of Theoderic for every single aspect of the study. I shall only make an attempt to justify why I have chosen to give prominence to this particular collection of popes’ biographies in the present ← 13 | 14 → work dedicated to Theoderic’s religious policy. Of course, my choice to focus on the LP does not mean that the other sources relevant to the subject have been disregarded or their importance diminished.

It would be simply stating the obvious that all sources are biased and it is the historian’s duty to identify the truth. The principle would also hold true for the sources on Theoderic and the Goths. As will be shown in a presentation of the other sources, the authors of the documents under consideration had their own likes and dislikes, and it would have an impact on how the events were to be described. For instance, Jordanes’ Getica, which is basically a version of Cassiodorus’ History of the Goths, represents a view of the events that puts Theoderic (Cassiodorus’ patron) in a favourable light. A similar account can be found in the anonymous Excerpta Valesiana, at least up to a certain point, as in the depiction of the final years of Theoderic’s reign the author shows so much indignation at the Ostrogoth ruler’s actions and offers such a radically different appraisal of his conduct that it would seem to imply the existence of two different authors involved in the composition of this source.

In view of the fact that the main theme of the present study is Theoderic’s religious policy, it would stand to reason to rely on an overtly ecclesiastical source that offers an account of the king’s attitudes and actions from the perspective of the Roman Curia. It is easy to see that the papacy would have regarded the political activity of the Arian king with a certain measure of reserve.8 For this reason, a source composed within the realm of the papal influence may serve as a counterpoint to the clearly biased sources dependent on Cassiodorus’ work.

For many centuries, Damasius and Jerome had been credited with the authorship of the Liber Pontificalis. Among various attributions that would follow, the most significant was the 16th-century identification of the anonymous author with Anastasius Bibliothecarius, which would be convincingly disproved in the 19th century.9 The question of the authorship of the LP continues to be a subject of debate to this day. Passing over the historical deliberations, I would begin with the modern editions by Luis Duchesne10 and Theodore Mommsen.11

According to Duchesne, the original work was written in Rome ca. 530, but it would survive only in the form of two epitomes, which he named Abrégé Fèlicien ← 14 | 15 → and Abrégé Cononien, whereas Theodor Mommsen would refer to them, respectively, as Epitome Feliciana and Epitome Cononiana. Both of them use the abbreviations F, for Felix IV (530), and K, for Conon (687), marking the pontificates that constitute the end period for each version.12 Apart from these two texts, there exists a version known as p, which would be, according to Duchesne, a second recension of the first version, composed shortly after 530, with as many as several decades missing, and subsequently resumed and continued until the pontificate of Adrian II, i.e., up to 872.13 Among the manuscripts that preserve the text in its fragments, perhaps the most noteworthy one is the so-called Fragmentum Laurentianum, extant in the 6th-century manuscript XXII of Verona.14 This source features the Symmachus note and enumerates several of his successors, with the same numerals as in the other copies of the LP. It may have possibly been some parallel Liber Pontificalis version, yet with an essentially different composition; contrary to the other surviving recensions, which would be definitely supportive of Symmachus and critical of Laurence, it clearly represents the interests of those in favour of the latter figure.15

On the basis of the extant epitomes, Duchesne offered his own reconstruction of the first recension. However, to embrace this nonetheless very arbitrary effort, it would be necessary to agree with some of the fundamental assumptions made by this eminent scholar: firstly, the F and K are indeed the epitomes of the first recension and, secondly, a compilation of the contents drawn from the both texts may impartially reflect the original text.

Likewise, Mommsen assumed that the F and K are summaries of the first recension, but dating from the 7th century.16 The arrangement of his edition, with juxtapositions of lections in the individual manuscript groups, differs from that of Duchesne. However, it does not seem to provide much information concerning the primary subject of this study, where details on Theoderic’s religious policy would be of greater use than various examples of papal foundations.

Approaching the question from an archaeologist’s perspective that would presuppose particular interest in the vestiges of the material culture as depicted in the Liber Pontificalis, Herman Geertman arrives at the conclusions which are opposite to the propositions put forward by Duchesne and Mommsen, and argues ← 15 | 16 → that the F and K are in fact summaries, or readaptations, of the text known as p, resulting in its elevation to the rank of the original.17 Geertman’s argumentation has been revised by Lidia Capo, who cites the example of the biographical note on Symmachus and asserts that the F would appear to have been earlier than p and there is no ground for seeking a different “archetype” for the two epitomes, as the F would fulfil all the formal requirements for the role.18 Therefore, the F would be the original first recension, K – a reworking dependent on the F, but composed with the use of some new documents, whereas the so-called second recension (alternatively, the second edition), i.e., the text known as p, would have been written shortly after the F, in an attempt to make a synthesis of the contents from that work and the K. It should be noted that the text of the K relied in its “summarized” account of the later developments, which are beyond the scope of the present book, on the basis of the p.19

Another important point is the question of the author and the objective of the Liber Pontificalis. Duchesne draws a hypothetical link between the origin of the source and the popes’ portraits from the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, the work dating back to the time of Symmachus’ pontificate and the “Laurentian schism.”20 Until as late as the fire of 1823, an image of Laurence had been included in the gallery of the popes’ portraits inside that basilica church, apparently a testimony to the significant influence of his followers at the time.21 It seems that there has been a general consensus on the ecclesiastical provenance of the text; nonetheless, this product of the Lateran milieu is not an official document of the Holy See. The authors had drawn on the archival records, showing much concern for the clarity of language and ensuring that the text would be more accessible to broader audiences.22

These conclusions would suggest that the F text could be regarded as the primary source on the years of Theoderic’s reign. It reflects the views close to the Roman Curia, to the circles satisfied with the king’s resolutions in the vital matters such as the controversy resulting from the contested election of Symmachus and Laurence, the dispute between the Roman Curia and the senators over the alienation of church property (settled in 507), and the “Acacian schism.” All these issues have been discussed in the present work. ← 16 | 17 →

This contentment of the milieu of the Liber Pontificalis may have contributed to the distinctly biased and partial nature of the source. As it appears, this would seem to provide just another argument for the choice of the Liber Pontificalis as the primary source, namely the existence of what could be called an alternative version, the Fragmentum Laurentianum, very critical of Symmachus as well as the king’s support he had received, and harbouring suspicions of intrigue and corruption. In terms of attention and interest, I have decided to give it the same treatment as the text of the F, which has been complemented at some places with the details from the p, even though one could not fail to notice at times that this particular document would be of a markedly libellous nature.

The Liber Pontificalis text as quoted throughout the book comes in most part from the recension known as F; even if the current or future research should prove it would differ from the text of the original recension, it would still be the closest thereto. At certain points, it has been necessary to take note of the variants from the various manuscripts, in particular where it may be of significance in terms of a more adequate understanding or a better depiction of Theoderic’s religious policy. All the citations from the second recension are marked with square brackets; I have also used the paragraphs numbering as per the same version.

To date, the Liber Pontificalis has not received very much attention in Polish academic literature. A noteworthy effort in the field is a new edition and Polish translation of the source, prepared by the editors of the series Synodi et Collectiones Legum as part of a research grant by courtesy of the National Centre of Science.

All the contents drawn from the Liber Pontificalis have been verified through juxtaposing them with the other relevant sources, with particular emphasis on the earliest works such as Jordanes’ Getica and the Excerpta Valesiana. For the dating of the events under discussion, I have decided to rely on a majority of the contemporary chronicles, especially Cassiodorus, Victor of Tunnuna, and Marcellinus Comes, as well as several church histories. Any other sources pertinent to the present subject have been taken into consideration in proportion to their presumable credibility and relevance to the topic.

3. Current state of research

The existence of a very extensive amount of scholarly literature on the history of Goths and Ostrogoths attests to the enduring popularity of this theme.23 Perhaps ← 17 | 18 → the most outstanding expert in the field is Herwig Wolfram, of whose work Geschichte der Goten (1979)24 there have been several editions and translations. Over the course of years, the Austrian scholar has made certain modifications in his views on the origin of the Goths, which would testify to his continued commitment to exploring this question. On the other hand, the renowned methodologist Walter Goffart, the author of Barbarians and Romans, A.D. 418–584: The Techniques of Accommodation,25 takes a somewhat critical approach to Wolfram’s views.

Finally, let us also mention a considerable body of publications dedicated to Theoderic and the related topics. He has been figured prominently in many works published in the 19th century26 and the interwar period,27 as well as monographic studies28 and books for the general public.29 Furthermore, Theoderic has been pictured as a protagonist of legends30 and a generous patron of arts.31

Some of the authors have concentrated on depictions of the ruler in the sources dating from before the year 1000, as featured in several articles32 and an extensive synthesis by Andreas Goltz entitled Barbar – König – Tyrann. Das Bild Theoderichs des Großen in der Überlieferung des 5. bis 9. Jahrhunderts.33 The author has ← 18 | 19 → already dealt with the religious aspects of Theoderic’s politics in his M.A. thesis (unpublished).34

The figure of Theoderic, at times depicted in negative terms as well, would continue to remain popular through the Middle Ages. Notably, as Dietrich von Bern, he was a protagonist of many German and Icelandic poems, ballads, and sagas.35

In a majority of the publications to date, Theoderic is portrayed as a great leader, the ruler of the Ostrogoths, later the king of Italy. He is often depicted as a figure who ushered in a new era. It is worth noting that his religious policy tends to be treated rather peripherally and would be predominantly discussed in the context of his internal or foreign policies. Obviously, any religious policy ought to be considered as an integral part of the internal and foreign relations, but most of the relevant works would talk of the religious aspects of his rule only to a limited extent.

The most comprehensive view of this theme was presented in the late-19th-century study Der Ostgotenkönig Theoderich der Grosse und die katholische Kirche by Georg Pfeilschifter.36 Several decades later, Erich Caspar would take up the same subject in part. Unfortunately, his book entitled Theoderich der Grosse und das Papsttum37 would not reach beyond the texts comprised in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Another noteworthy publication is Richard Irwin Harper’s The Relationship Between Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, and the papacy, A.D. 490–A.D. 526 (1961).38

References to Theoderic’s relations with the papacy and the Church can also be found in several comprehensive histories of Late Antiquity, the papacy, and the Church.39 I have relied for a major part on the now classic Geschichte des Papsttums. Von den Anfängen bis zur Höhe der Weltherrschaft by Erich Caspar40 and Histoire du Bas-Empire, vol. 2, by Ernest Stein.41 Among the most interesting articles, let us mention those by Francis Dvornik42 and Thomas Noble.43 The authors point out that despite his affiliation with Arianism (after all, a Christian ← 19 | 20 → heresy), the king would play an active role in the relations with the Holy See. However, the assumed profile of these works would not allow much space for discussing Theoderic’s relationship with the Church more comprehensively or in more detail. It cannot be said, of course, that there is no scholarly literature on the subject; apart from the above-mentioned publications, there is also a certain amount of minor studies that attempt to deal with the problem of Theoderic’s involvement in church affairs or his relations with the popes.

The most extensive amount of literature deals with the pontificate of Symmachus, overshadowed by a schism within the Church of Rome.44 The pope was the main subject of an international symposium whose end result was a collection of academic papers entitled Il papato di san Simmaco (498–514), with the most notable contributions by V. Grossi, M. Montesano, M. Cecchelli.45

Aside from Symmachus, the popes who have generated much scholarly attention are Gelasius,46 for his uncompromising stance in his relations with the emperor, and John,47 who was imprisoned on Theoderic’s orders and died in captivity. Besides, a considerable number of publications have been devoted to the two schisms of the period, “Acacian”48 and “Laurentian.”49

Some of the issues concerning Theoderic’s religious policy can be found in modern publications on the history of the Gothic rule in Italy (e.g., H. Löwe,50 L. Várady,51 A. Engler,52 F. M. Ausbüttel53) and papers delivered as part of the ← 20 | 21 → international conferences of Milan54 and Ravenna.55 Another valuable source of reference I have used is Romanobarbarica (an irregular scholarly series published since 1976) dedicated to the Barbaro-Roman cultural relations.

Considering the title Inter duas potestates, I would not have overlooked the publications dealing with the religious policies of the Byzantine emperors, among which the works of the Polish scholars Jan Prostko-Prostyński and Rafał Kosiński are of particular interest.56

1 GELASIUS, Epistola 12, 2, Ad Anastasium Augustum, THIEL 351: Duo sunt quippe, imperator auguste, quibus principaliter mundus hic regitur.

2 M. VITIELLO, 2005a, 9: Si tratta di argomenti che, nonostante l’incremento negli ultimi degli studi sull’Italia e la Roma di V e VI secolo, necessitano di una più esauriente trattazione; il loro studio giova alla comprensione di temi più complessi e di generale interesse.

3 In actual fact, Felix II, but the Liber Pontificalis 38 mentions the antipope Felix (355–365) as Felix II, hence this particular pope is known as Felix III; cf. J. N. D. KELLY, 2006, 51–52.

4 Cf. PLRE II, 1077–1084.

5 For the forms of the king’s name used in various periods, cf. M. WILCZYŃSKI, 2001a, 415. However, the author opts for “Theodoric” (Polish: Teodoryk). For the forms of the name asf used in various sources, cf. M. SCHÖNFELD, 1911, 232–234; H. REICHERT, 1987, 671. Furthermore, some sources also mention the name Alimericus, derived from the name of Theoderic’s uncle, Valamer; cf. J. PROSTKO-PROSTYŃSKI, 1993, 18–19.

6 REX THEODERICVS VICTOR GENTIVM; cf. M. OŻÓG, 2011b, 51–58. Some authors describe this medalion incorrectly. P. Heather is convinced that the solid of Anastasius is Theoderic’s medalion, he describes it attaching an illustration of the solid on which bears the emperor himself! (P. HEATHER, 2013: Ch. 2: A Philosopher in Purple. Semper Augustus). M. Mączyńska in turn gives the wrong form of the legend. Cf. M. MĄCZYŃSKA, 1996, 219 (the same mistake occurs with this author in the same thesis issued under a different title cf. M. MĄCZYŃSKA, 2013, 224.).

7 Cf. M. OżÓG, 2010, 191–199; 2011a, 97–112; 2011b, 43–58; 2012a, 105–121; 2012b, 107–126; M. OżÓG, H. PIETRAS, 2011, 85–96.

8 Cf. Ch. I: “The Arian Church of the Goths.”

9 For an informative overview of those opinions, see L. DUCHESNE, 1877, 1–3.

10 Cf. Le Liber Pontificalis, texte, introduction et commentaire par l’abbé Louis Marie Duchesne, tome premier, Paris 1886 (recension I: 48–116; recension II: from p. 117; Fragmentum Laurentianum: 44–46).

11 Cf. Libri Pontificalis pars prior, ed. Theodor Mommsen, MGH GPR, Berlin 1898.


13 For further elaborations on the text of the LP, extending well past the period in question, cf. O. BERTOLINI, 1970, 390–395.

14 Cf. L. DUCHESNE, 1877, 24–25, 41.

15 Cf. Ch. V: “LP 53 on Symmachus.”


17 Cf. H. GEERTMAN, 2004, 152 and 270.

18 Cf. L. CAPO, 2009, 22–25, referring to R. CESSI, 1919, 71–96.

19 Cf. L. CAPO, 2009, 24–25 and 45.

20 Cf. L. DUCHESNE, 1877, 36.

21 Cf. R. DAVIS, 1989, V.

22 Cf. L. CAPO, 2009, 89–90.

23 Cf., e.g., G. PFEILSCHIFTER, 1910; L. SCHMIDT, 1933; P. SCARDIGLI, 1973; T. S. BURNS, 1980; J. D. RANDERS-PEHRSON, 1983; J. STRZELCZYK, 1984, S. TEILLET, 1984; T. S. BURNS, 1991; P. HEATHER, J. MATTHEWS, The Goths in the fourth century, Liverpool University Press 1991; P. HEATHER, 1992; P. AMORY, 1997; P. HEATHER, 1997; P. HEATHER, 2005; P. HEATHER, 2010.

24 Cf. H. WOLFRAM, 1979.

25 Cf. W. GOFFART, 2011.

26 Cf. A. F. L. S. DE GRIMOARD BEAUVOIR, 1846; G. GAROLLO, 1879; K. M. EMMENDINGEN, 1888; W. J. LANCASTER, 1896; T. HODGKIN, 1897.

27 Cf. H. REIER, 1934; M. BRION, 1935; J. PRESTEL, 1935; M. BRION, 1936; H. NEUMANN, 1937; G. VETTER, 1938; H. EICKE, 1938.

28 Cf. W. ENSSLIN, 1959; H. J. ZIMMERMANN, 1972; L. VÁRADY, 1984; J. MOORHEAD, 1992; G. CARAVITA, 1993; A. GIOVANDITO, 1993; A. ENGLER, 1998; F. M. AUSBÜTTEL, 2003; J. J. ARNOLD, 2008.

29 Cf. J. PRESTEL, 1935; H. MALEWSKA, 1972; S. SALTI, R. VENTURINI, 2001; R. LAIDLAW, 2008.

30 Cf. C. CIPOLLA, 1892a, 7–98; G. ZINK, 1950; J. F. JONES, 1952, 1094–1102; W. HAUG, 1971, 43–62; D. MCLINTOCK, 1987, 99–106; J. MARTÍNEZ PIZARRO, 1995, 176–179; S. PEDONE, 2008, 273–281.

31 For Theoderic’s building activity, cf. C. CECCHELLI, 1960, 747–774; P. VERZONE, 1968; R. SÖRRIES, 1983; M. J. JOHNSON, 1988, 73–96; S. G. MACCORMACK, 1990, 230–240; B. PFERSCHY, 1989, 259–328; C. LA ROCCA, 1993, 451–490; C. BARSANTI, 2008b, 185–202; A. AUGENTI, 2007, 425–454; I. WOOD, 2007, 249–263; D. M. DELIYANNIS, 2010a, 106–198.

32 Cf. A. PIZZI, 1994–95, 259–282; P. LAMMA, 1968b, 187–195; A. GOLTZ, 2002, 547–572.

33 Cf. A. GOLTZ, 2008.

34 Cf. A. GOLTZ, 1995.

35 E.g., Hildebrandslied, Nibelungenlied, Thidrekssaga.

36 Cf. G. PFEILSCHIFTER, 1896.

37 Cf. E. CASPAR, 1931.

38 Cf. R. I. HARPER, 1961.

39 Cf. F. X. SEPPELT, 1931; J. HALLER, 1951; J. RICHARDS, 1979, 57–135; J.-M. MAYEUR, CH. PIETRI, L. PIETRI, 1995.

40 Cf. E. CASPAR, 1933.

41 Cf. E. STEIN, 1949.

42 Cf. F. DVORNIK, 1955, 3–23.

43 Cf. T. F. X. NOBLE, 1993, 395–423; T. F. X. NOBLE, 1995, 505–540.

44 Cf. W. T. TOWNSEND, 1937, 233–259; CH. PIETRI, 1997, 771–787; for more literature, see also the references for the sections on the “Laurentian schism.”

45 Cf. Il papato di san Simmaco (498–514), 2000.

46 Cf. H. KOCH, 1935; A. K. ZIEGLER, 1942, 412–437; W. ENSSLIN, 1955, 661–668; W. ULLMANN, 1981.

47 Cf. W. ENSSLIN, 1951, 127–134; H. LÖWE, 1953, 83–100.

48 Cf. S. SALAVILLE, 1920, 2153–2178; E. SCHWARTZ, 1934; W. T. TOWNSEND, 1936, 78–86; W. T. TOWNSEND, 1937, 233–259; W. HAACKE, 1939.

49 Cf. R. CESSI, 1919, 71–96; A. ALESSANDRINI, 1944, 167–197; J. MOORHEAD, 1978b, 127–128; P. A. B. LLEWELLYN, 1976, 417–427; C. PIETRI, 1997, 771–787; A. SCHWARCZ, 2004, 40–41; T. SARDELLA, 2000, 11–37; T. SARDELLA, 1996; E. WIRBELAUER, 2000, 39–51; E. WIRBELAUER, 1993; C. CAPIZZI, 2000, 79–110; P. A. B. LLEWELLYN, 1977, 245–275; G. B. PICOTTI, 1958, 743–786.

50 Cf. H. LÖWE, 1956.

51 Cf. L. VÁRADY, 1984.

52 Cf. A. ENGLER, 1998.

53 Cf. F. M. AUSBÜTTEL, 2003; F. M. AUSBÜTTEL, 2007, 137–155.

54 Cf. Theoderico il grande e i Goti d’Italia, vol. 1–2, 1993.

55 Cf. CARILE A. (ed.), 1995.

56 Cf. P. CHARANIS, 1939b; P. LAMMA, 1968a, 27–57; J. PROSTKO-PROSTYŃSKI, 1994; R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010b.

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Chapter I
The arian church of the Goths

1. The Anti-Nicene Attitude of the Goths

It was around the year 341 that Wulfila, a descendant of Cappadocian captives (seized in 258), who had been raised among the Goths, was consecrated bishop by a man named Eusebius.57 The sources tend to rely on Philostorgius58 and report that the consecration had probably been performed by Eusebius of Nicomedia.59 Even though it is not stated explicitly, it would correspond with the Goths’ eventual embrace of Arianism. If the identification of the man called Eusebius with the Bishop of Nicomedia is correct, one could do nothing but agree with the view that the consecration would have taken place at Antioch during a great synod summoned to consecrate a church there in the same year.60 Philostorgius notes that it had happened at the time of the Gothic envoys’ visit to Constantinople, which would have called for Eusebius presence there. Thus, the clergymen who assisted him would not have participated in the Antioch synod but in the synodus endemousa at the capital.61 The ambiguity of this mention may result in disparate interpretations. For instance, Timothy D. Barnes says that Wulfila’s consecration may have taken place in connection with the celebration of Constantine’s tricennalia that commenced in 335.62

I have noted that this would fit in with the later Arian faith of the Goths, but drawing a link between that fact and the consecration performed by Eusebius appears to be anachronistic. At that time, Arianism had not been established as ← 23 | 24 → an organized Church or even an ecclesial community, and the bishops whose theological views would have been close to those of Arius were legitimate hierarchs who led the followers of the Nicene Creed and vice versa. Moreover, in as early as 341 no one would have acted against the Arian faith with the aid of a written creed. Arianism would only just begun to separate itself from the Church, which would have taken place towards the late 330s.63 The opinion proposed by Henryk Pietras, which I assume to be correct, is a relatively recent argument that is different from the textbook point of view, yet it has not seen any critical response to date.

In 360, Wulfila took part in the synod of Constantinople, which adopted the Nike creed, as a matter of fact the so-called fourth formula of Sirmium, which had been accepted at Rimini not long before.64 As much as it was an anti-Nicene position, it would not have been tantamount, in all likelihood, to a conscious adoption of Arianism.

Let us now have a look at this particular creed and consider the question if Wulfila could have realized it might have involved some sort of a catch.

“We believe in One God, Father Almighty, from whom are all things;

And in the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten from God before all ages and before every beginning, by whom all things were made, visible and invisible, and begotten as Only-begotten, only from the Father only, God from God, like to the Father that begat Him according to the Scriptures; whose origin no one knows, except the Father alone who begat Him. He as we acknowledge, the Only-begotten Son of God, the Father sending Him, came hither from the heavens, as it is written, for the undoing of sin and death, and was born of the Holy Ghost, of Mary the Virgin according to the flesh, as it is written, and convened with the disciples, and having fulfilled the whole Economy according to the Father’s will, was crucified and dead and buried and descended to the parts below the earth; at whom hades itself shuddered: who also rose from the dead on the third day, and abode with the disciples, and, forty days being fulfilled, was taken up into the heavens, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, to come in the last day of the resurrection in the Father’s glory, that He may render to every man according to his works. And in the Holy Ghost, whom the Only-begotten Son of God Himself, Christ, our Lord and God, promised to send to the race of man, as Paraclete, as it is written, ‘the Spirit of truth’ (Joh. xvi. 13), which He sent unto them when He had ascended into the heavens.”65 ← 24 | 25 →

On Wulfila’s consecration, if the consecrating bishop had been Eusebius of Nicomedia indeed, one could fairly safely assume that he would have been told the story of the synod of Nicaea in 325, exactly how Eusebius would have wished to see it, namely referring to a convocation responsible for formulating the unfortunate confession of faith that was in need of emendation. In the same year (341), four propositions of a new creed arose at Antioch.66 It is difficult to say if anybody would have shown him the Nicene Creed at that time. Let us recall that Athanasius of Alexandria would have started to act in defence of the recognition of the Nicene Creed since about 350, i.e., since the moment he realized that it would be impossible to reach a consensus on any other creed.

The situation changed in 360, but it would not become any clearer. The above-mentioned confession of faith had been adopted by the bishops at the synod of Rimini in 359 and considered as orthodox by the majority. In the following year, the synod of Paris would accept the Nicene Creed officially.67 In actual fact, both creeds were orthodox, yet it was the former that would be remembered in history as Arian, whereas the Nicene Creed as orthodox. It seems, however, that Henryk Pietras is right in saying that labelling something as Arian is the work of Athanasius and did not need to have anything to do with a person’s theological views, rather with someone’s attitude to them. Athanasius would simply call all his enemies “Arians”, with the intent of being regarded as persecuted for his faith.68 There is no reason to believe that Wulfila would have been concerned with theological disputes on a philosophically sophisticated level; therefore, he may have taken the creed of Nike/Rimini at face value and would not have perceived any disturbing novelty therein. At the time, he must have been already busy with translating the Scriptures into the Gothic language, with omissions of certain parts,69 for which purpose, in the first place, he would have had to create the suitable alphabet.70 It ← 25 | 26 → may be assumed then that he would have reached deep into the Biblical vocabulary and was probably open to the argumentation of the opponents of the Nicene Creed, who reproached him for his use of the terms not present in the Bible (with “consubstantiality” among the most notable ones), provided that he would have been given such explanations at all.

The second half of the 360s marked a war between the Goths and the emperor Valens in the territories along the Danube, concluded by a peace treaty on the Danube in 369.

Ammianus Marcellinus states that the treaty was detrimental to the Empire,71 but very likely the Gothic advance to the south could not have been stopped any more. Following the signing of the treaty, Athanaricus, the commander and the official iudex Gothorum,72 i.e., the general leader in times of war, began the persecution of Christians in his ranks,73 whether Arians or Catholics, as Emanuela Prinzivalli notes.74 Or, possibly, he may have been simply unaware of the divisions amid the Christians. Regardless of the specific nuances, it had been, after all, the religion of his enemies.

An armed conflict between the two Gothic tribes, under Athanaricus and Fritigern, broke out around 370.75 Athanaricus gained the upper hand, which made Fritigern solicit the emperor Valens’ aid. The ruler agreed to provide assistance, which would become a matter of great urgency in the face of the Huns’ attack on the Goths.76 In this way, the group of the Goths on the emperor’s side would embrace the creed promoted by Valens,77 motivated mostly by its political merits.78 According to Jordanes, Valens imposed the acceptance of “his” Arianism on them. Let us have a look at the following passage:

It appears to be plausible then that the Arian faith of the Goths would have been the outcome of the emperor Valens’ action, not of their own conscious choice.

It is significant that according to the creed incorporated in his testament Wulfila would distance himself from both the followers of the consubstantiality and the likeness of the Father and the Son as to the essence, as I will demonstrate further on. It is also of interest to note how Theodoret of Cyrrhus depicts the adoption of Arianism by the Goths.80 He states that at the time of the signing of a peace treaty after the cessation of hostilities the emperor Valens followed Eudoxius’ advice81 and proposed to the Goths that the treaty be consolidated by means of the common faith. It is then worth taking a closer look at this adviser to find out what sort of religious views were offered to the Goths.

Eudoxius, of Armenian descent, had baptized Valens before the conflict with the Goths82 and he would certainly have exerted much influence on the emperor.83 Theodoret of Cyrrhus links the ruler’s decision to become baptized with his pious preparations before the campaign. However, as based on the account of Ammianus Marcellinus, it may be surmised that Valens would have decided to do so afflicted with a serious illness.84 Eudoxius took part in the synod of Philippopolis in 343, which was polarized over what the Eastern bishops had seen as a scandal, namely the fact that the bishops of the West had invited the condemned Athanasius to participate in the synod of Serdica.85 In 358, Eudoxius took part in the synod at Sirmium, where the second creed of Antioch (341) was ← 27 | 28 → accepted86 and the formula of Sirmium was pronounced as third. Athanasius claimed that his information on the proceedings of the synods at Rimini87 and Seleucia was reliable.88 The two synods took place at the same time, immediately following the synod of Sirmium, where the creed was essentially orthodox, but failing to embrace the Nicene consubstantiality. He charged him with obstinately declining to endorse the Nicene Creed, even though Eudoxius would agree on speaking of the perfect resemblance between the Father and the Son as to the essence. He explained it by citing associations with Acacius, Eusebius’ successor at Caesarea, and their common reliance on Aetius, a very radical Subordinationist, who would deny any resemblance between the Father and the Son.89 In the 360s, Eudoxius made efforts to present the matter in somewhat softer terms. Perhaps, he may have been motivated by career-related considerations: as Bishop of Antioch, he succeeded in being elevated to Bishop of Constantinople in 36090 and would have a part in imposing the Nike creed (359) on the bishops assembled at the synod of Rimini.

Now let us revert to the previously stated information on Wulfila’s participation in the synod of Constantinople in 360. For this reason, the narrative of Theodoret would have most probably concerned the same events that were contemporaneous with the signing of the peace treaty ca. 370. Like in 360, the Goths may have been unaware of the theological minutiae or some other religious controversies in the Eastern Church. They held Wulfila as their authority and simply wished to share his faith. He did subscribe to the Nike credo, but he would not have to be aware of becoming an Arian. However, since the creed question reappeared in 370, some uncertainties may have arisen around that time, but Eudoxius resorted to gifts, persuasion, and arguments to convince Wulfila that there was no difference between the creed of Valens (i.e., the one from Rimini, affirmed ten years before) and the other professions of faith, except for some inessential points.

In consequence, they gave their consent, but, as Theodoret notes, they would require certain clarifications. They agreed to affirming that the Father is greater than the Son, yet they would absolutely refuse to refer to the latter as “being created.” It is difficult to identify the source of this information, as the “testamental” ← 28 | 29 → creed of Wulfila (in its longer version) makes reference to the Son as “being created,” although the exact sense of this expression is not clear.91

According to Alain Chauvot, the Goths had been converting en masse to Arianism since 376, but from Catholicism rather than paganism.92 His opinion is based on the commentaries of the later Catholic authors, in particular Socrates and Theodoret, who had shared Athanasius’ view that everybody embracing a non-Nicene creed would have been necessarily an Arian.93

In my opinion, it is safer to say that the Christian faith of the Goths would begin to take on some characteristics of a “national” church, with their own liturgical language, the Bible translated into that language, and a creed interpreted in ways which are not entirely clear.94 Apparently, they used it to stress their distinct identity. It is likely that at the time they would not have realized that someone might be calling them “Arians.”

The actual fact is that the emperor Valens had granted land in Thrace to Fritigern’s Goths, content that he gained soldiers at an inexpensive cost (cf. Socrates Scholasticus); it was estimated that as many as 200,000 armed men resettled,95 which would put the total number of the people at close to 1 million, apparently a vastly exaggerated number.

It is evident that the Goths would not prove to be capable of “enjoying” the emperor’s favour. As Socrates reports:

“The barbarians having been put into possession of Thrace, and securely enjoying that Roman province, were unable to bear their good fortune with moderation; but committing hostile aggressions upon their benefactors, devastated all Thrace and the adjacent countries.”96 ← 29 | 30 →

It is clear to see that Socrates does not show much sympathy for the Goths. Nonetheless, on the other hand, Ammianus Marcellinus mentions some other reasons for the rebellion, such as famine, exorbitant food prices, exploitation, selling people into slavery, or even some bartering practices such as offering dogs to the starving Goths (apparently, they would eat dog meat), at the rate “one dog for one slave.”97 It should be dated probably to 377, and the confirmation of these details can be found in Jerome.98 At that time, let us recall, Eusosius (an opponent of the Nicene Creed, former disciple of Arius, who would later distance himself from the radical Arianism99) died in Antioch, the Church of Alexandria had been divided into the adherents and opponents of Nicaea, while the people of Constantinople would have been already dissatisfied with the emperor’s policy, in particular with the presence of the Goths.100 Eventually, it was impossible to avoid a conflict; the emperor Valens suffered a defeat and was killed in the Battle of Adrianopol on 9 August 378.101 The victorious Goths rushed to Constantinople with the intention of conquering and plundering the city. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, they ← 30 | 31 → would give up as soon as they realized the sheer size of the walls and the strength of the defence.102 It may have seemed they were defeated, yet the emperor Theodosius’ later campaigns against the Goths would have rather shown that the Empire did not underestimate the enemy and continued to approach them with due caution, granting them many privileges, as we shall see further on.

At that point, the Gothic creed could have been called “Wulfilian.” I have already referred to the negotiations between Valens and Wulfila in 376, when the latter would have adopted the formula that made no mention of consubstantiality, but it would not speak of the Son as a created being, either. As commonly known, Valens’ successor in the Eastern Roman Empire, Theodosius the Great, promulgated his decree on faith in 380:103

“It is Our will that all the peoples who are ruled by the administration of Our Clemency shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans, as the religion which he introduced makes clear even unto this day. It is evident that this is the religion that is followed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity; that is, according to the apostolic discipline and the evangelic doctrine, we shall believe in the single Deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, under the concept of equal majesty and the Holy Trinity.

We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment.”104

There is no doubt it should have concerned the Goths as well. But would anyone have been concerned about their actual confession? The Empire did have some ← 31 | 32 → problems with the Goths, but those issues would have been outside the domain of religious controversies. The Goths had to withstand the pressure from various Germanic tribes, they needed land to settle on, which would make them come and occupy some territories within the frontiers of the Roman Empire. It appears that they would not engage in religious disputes, but it is probable that just as they had adhered to Wulfila’s position during the negotiations with Valens in 376 and would subsequently agree with his views, he would also continue to remain their highest authority later on.

It may be surmised that Theodosius was aware of the fact and even though he summoned the bishops to Constantinople and had them subscribe to the Nicene Creed very clearly,105 he would have nevertheless made allowance for the different treatment of the Romans (in a broader sense of this term) and the barbarians as regards the religious policy. Let us quote the final passage of Canon 2, which was affirmed at that synod:

“As for God’s churches among the barbarian peoples, they should be administered in accordance with the custom accepted by our fathers.”106

Apparently, it may refer to all the Germanic tribes that would have organized their own church structures with Wulfila’s Bible in their hands and treated him as their patriarch. Perhaps, the entire Gothic clergy would have descended from Wulfila on the strength of Apostolic succession. It would mean that those structures had been approved and it turned out, shortly afterwards, that Auxentius of Durostorum, Wulfila’s disciple, installed himself in Milan, under empress Justina’s patronage, beside the Catholic bishop Ambrose, most likely with the support from many local priests still recalling the other clergyman named Auxentius, Ambrose’s predecessor in Milan, and a staunch opponent of the Nicene credo.107

At this point, one should ask what that Arian creed of the Goths was like. Auxentius quotes a brief version of the creed and states that Wulfila had written it down before his death, but earlier in the text the Gothic bishop had discussed the point quite extensively and provided many important details. On account of the Goths’ attachment to Wulfila’s tradition, it may be fairly safely assumed that his testamental credo would continue to remain in use after his death. The brief version of the creed reads as follows: ← 32 | 33 →

It can be seen that the creed is clearly a Subordinationist one, but it is not heretical in what it says about the Son of God. The Son is described as someone who has no one similar to Him: non hebentem similem suum. In all probability, it ought to be interpreted in the sense that Arius’ creed refers to the Son as “the perfect creation of God, but not as other creatures.”109 This creed does not make any mention of the resemblance of the Son to the Father, and therefore referring to the Gothic creed as a homeic doctrine110 is highly inaccurate. On the other hand, the statement on the Holy Spirit is evidently Macedonian and in denial of the Spirit.

However, this creed does not refer to the Son as “being created” at all, and it is possible that Theodoret of Cyrrhus would have drawn on this particular text for his aforementioned statement that the Goths believed in the Son’s inferior position in relation to the Father but not in the fact that He is created. Nonetheless, the association with Arius’ letter and the longer version of the creed would not warrant such a view. As Auxentius quotes (or relates in his own words, it is hard to be certain on this point): unigenitum deum creavit et genuit, fecit et fundavit. ← 33 | 34 → These are the four verbs mentioned in the Proverbs, where the Wisdom speaks of herself:

It would be awkward to criticize anybody for quoting from the Scriptures, but, the specific words aside, it is fairly easy to discern the Subordinationist inclination in Auxentius’ explanations. He regards the followers of consubstantiality as dangerous heretics, while the proponents of the resemblance as to the substance are not much better. Let us have a closer look at his arguments in order to throw some more light on his doctrinal position. Auxentius states that Wulfila considered the former as the followers of the doctrine which is “odious and abominable, depraved and perverse confession of the Homousians as a devilish invention and doctrine of demons,”112 and he would oppose them with this argument: if one can believe that the only-begotten Son created everything on earth and in heaven, why not believe that the Father created one being that is His own work? He countered the Homoiousians by arguing that there is no likeness, only a great difference between the Father and the Son, the same one as that between the Son and the world He has created.113 To make his point more specific, he goes on to say: “Wherefore he scattered the sect of the Homousians, because he believed not in confused and concrete persons, but in discrete and distinct ones. The Homoiousians, however, he put to flight, since they defended the assumption that they were not of comparable but different substance,” as the term adfectus may be rendered.114

One must admit, therefore, that his views were quite clear and convincing, although the supporters of consubstantiality did not profess the belief in the mingled or material persons at all,115 and those who believed in the resemblance as to the substance would definitely make a distinction between the persons.

Wulfila died in Constantinople in the early 380s,116 but his creed (which, apparently, he would not have composed on his deathbed, as he had professed ← 34 | 35 → it before) points out that he would not take the theological argumentation of Athanasius or anybody else into account at all: his faith was straightforward and unconcerned with philosophical deliberations.

Let us also note that this particular position was endorsed by the emperor and the “imperial” Church in Canon 2 of Constantinople (381), where it is pronounced that the barbarians have their own, previously defined, structures and are allowed to function therein. To continue the same course of his religious policy, Theodosius promulgated his pro-Nicene law, as noted, but later on, he issued the following constitution (386):

The reference to those who might have believed that they were the only ones who could assemble officially appears to have been a warning addressed to the followers ← 35 | 36 → of the Nicene Creed who would have felt empowered by the emperor Theodosius’ previous decree on the catholic faith118 and wished to prevent the situation that the barbarians (effectively, the Goths) could have their own ecclesial structure, in accordance with Canon 2 of 381, independent of the “imperial” one. In 386, this would not have amounted to a full-fledged schism yet, although the pro-Nicene circles considered the others as heretics, and the other way round, as evident in Wulfila’s creed, to name just one example. During Theodosius’ reign, the newly appointed bishops were, in principle, adherents of the Nicene Creed, even though the constitution cited above demonstrates that the opposite could have been the case as well. If it ensured the right to assemble, it means that it recognized the right to summon gatherings by some ecclesiastical authority. I have mentioned the bishop named Auxentius (the other one) in Milan, together with Ambrose. However, he does not seem to have been a “legitimate” or “formal” bishop of that city, but simply a bishop who had arrived there from somewhere else.

The constitution of 386 made it possible to formally appoint barbarian bishops, though it is not known since when it had been put into practice. It is not certain who might have been the supporters of the creed of Nike/Rimini, apart from the Goths. On the strength of the imperial order, everybody else was obliged to abide by the Nicene Creed, which was pronounced to be inviolable in Constantinople (381), as enshrined in Canon 1. For this reason, I would venture that the constitution in question may be considered as an official affirmation of the national church of the Goths, with the credo of Rimini.

It seems, however, that this concession was held to be valid solely in the territories thought to be under Gothic rule, not in larger municipalities. This situation may be reflected in one of the accounts concerning the events from the years 395–400, under the emperor Arcadius.119 One of the commanders of the imperial troops was a Goth named Gainas,120 who intended to maintain order in the city, apparently on his own terms. For instance, he ordered the assassination of a man named Rufinus,121 notorious for his extortionist practices, and it is possible that Jordanes speaks of this particular individual, referring to his “shenanigans” in Constantinople.122 Until as late as 399, Gainas would have served as comes for the military affairs. In the same year, another revolt, led by the Gothic comes Tribigild, broke out. It was to be suppressed by Gainas, but he would come to ← 36 | 37 → agreement with the leader of the rebellion, joined the plundering, and eventually turned up with his troops at Chalcedon, putting the capital in danger. The emperor proposed negotiations, which would proceed to Gainas’ advantage. In effect, he became commander-in-chief and was allowed to enter the city with his Gothic forces, so that in consequence, as Sozomen notes, he would grow in pride and disturbed the peace of the Church:

When bishop John heard the news of this incident, he decided to take action and went to the palace, accompanied by the bishops who were in the city at that time. In the emperor’s presence, he proceeded to address Gainas in a rather lengthy speech. He recalled the Gothic officer’s homeland, his flight, and the significant moment when the latter man, rescued by the present emperor’s father, had taken a solemn oath to act for the good cause of the Romans, the emperor and the emperor’s children, and to respect the laws which, at that particular moment, he was going to disregard and violate. To prove his point, he showed the constitution issued by Theodosius, which forbade the religious dissidents to assemble for their services within the walls of the city. Then he addressed the emperor, urging him to keep in force the constitution against all the other religious sects, intimating to him that it would be better to resign the imperial authority than to become a godless man by betraying the house of God. This act of courage proved that John would not tolerate new measures in the matters of the Church under his leadership.

This episode is also featured in the History by Theodoret of Cyrrhus, who presents a dialogue between Gainas and John Chrysostom.124 Gainas argues that his request is justified by his military efforts for the Romans. Besides, it is known that the Goths would have religious services officiated in their language at St Paul’s Church in Constantinople. But it is possible that they were held for the orthodox, not Arian, Goths.125 When violent riots, which culminated in a massacre of the ← 37 | 38 → Goths, broke out in the city in the summer of 400, some of the Goths would have reportedly taken refuge inside that church and were burned there alive.126

Gainas was killed by the Huns that formed part of the troops under command of another Goth. It could be said that the Eastern Roman Empire had been increasingly becoming a hostage in the fighting among the particular Gothic tribes, just as the Western Empire would have been increasingly dependant on the Germanic peoples.

In Rome, there was one Arian church (which should be probably understood as “Gothic”), and, according to Pope Gelasius, there were plans to erect another one during the pontificate of Hilarius (461–468). The Pope opposed it vehemently, even threatening the emperor Anthemius with a refusal to dispense the holy sacraments.127 As for the former one, it is not known when it had come into existence and who was the head of that church; most likely, it had no bishop, as the Gothic Arians would never come to enjoy a strong standing in Rome.

2. Theoderic’s “national” Arianism

The arrival of Theoderic’s Ostrogoths had a profound effect on the religious situation in Italy.128 All of them (or almost all of them) were Arians, with their own clergy, their own Bible as well as church structure. Though still a minority, they continued to possess the power and would not hesitate to use it.129 In such circumstances, the majority could not help but accept that fact. At any rate, this must have been the actual nature of the exemplary religious tolerance in Theoderic’s kingdom.130 For instance, there is no information on whether he had ever objected to the fact that his mother was a Catholic and complemented her Gothic name ← 38 | 39 → Ereliliava or Ereleuva131 by adding the Christian name Eusebia,132 even though it is presumed that the name would not have been used either by herself or her native tribe.133 As regards Ereleuva’s name, it should be noted that even Pope Gelasius addressed her as Hereleuva, not Eusebia.134 The relations between Gelasius and Ereleuva must have been very good indeed, as he relied on her patronage in his efforts to obtain the king’s assistance for the starving people of Rome.135 As based on the text of the Excerpta Valesiana, Bruno Luiselli infers that Ereleuwa would have converted from Arianism into the Catholic faith, yet it does not follow from that text at all. Moreover, it would rather have met with her son’s disapproval.136 On the other hand, as regards the baptism of Theoderic’s mother, Bruno Dumézil notes that this fact “would indicate that she had been a pagan before,”137 which is rather a fairly peculiar remark in view of the fact that everybody is a pagan prior to their baptism. Besides, Wilhelm Ensslin emphasizes that since in accordance with the tradition of the Catholic Church the marital union between a Catholic woman and an Arian man could not have been recognized as a legitimate marriage, the Arians may have taken a very similar approach. Hence, Ereleuva was Theodemir’s common-law wife, which would not have prevented their son, Theoderic, from enjoying the full rights of a legitimately born child, whereas Ereleuva was entitled to be recognized as queen.138

As for Theoderic’s tolerance of the religious differences, regardless of the actual reasons for his attitude, it is worth noting the difference between his position and the behaviour of Vandals in Africa. The Vandal king Geiseric was succeeded by his son Huneric, who “with Arian perfidy condemned to banishment and forced to flee over 334 catholic bishops, closed down their churches, and persecuted the people in various ways; although he had cut off the hands and tongues of many, he did not succeed in eradicating the catholic faith.”139 ← 39 | 40 → One of his successors, Thrasamund, continued in much the same vein and banished 220 bishops to Sardinia.140

It is interesting to note that in his Panegyric Ennodius refers to the faith in which Theoderic was raised as simply the worship of the supreme God, with no concern for his Arianism.141 Bruno Dumézil somehow infers from this statement that the author refers to a “homeic faith,”142 whereas Gregorio Caravita claims that Theoderic had been raised a Catholic at the Byzantine court, and would only become an Arian in order to rule over the Goths.143

Another significant circumstance was the “Acacian Schism,” which overshadowed nearly the entire period of Theoderic’s reign, as it began in 484 and would last until 518.

Theoderic’s indulgent attitude came to an end when the emperor Justin radicalized his position on the Arians in the East.144 In 524, Justin promulgated a law on the strength of which the Goths in the East were deprived of the freedom of religion and their church buildings were to become the property of the Catholics.145 However, according to the Excerpta Valesiana, Theoderic’s position was different: he was concerned with the possibility of the Arians’ return to their faith (those who had been forcefully converted to Catholicism) rather than with the restitution of the church buildings.

“Then the king, on his return to Ravenna, acted no longer as a friend of God, but as an enemy to His law; forgetful of all His kindness and of the favour which He had shown him, trusting to his own arm, believing, too, that the emperor Justinus stood in great fear of him, he sent and summoned to Ravenna Johannes, who at that time sat upon the apostolic throne, and said to him: ‘Go to the emperor Justinus in Constantinople, and tell him among other things to restore those who have become reconciled and joined the Catholic Church’. To him the Pope Johannes replied: ‘What you will do, O king, do quickly. Lo! here I stand before you. But this thing I will not promise you to do, nor will I give the emperor your command. But anything else which you may enjoin upon me with God’s help I shall be able to obtain from him.’”146 ← 40 | 41 →

The king dispatched Pope John to Constantinople in order to obtain the emperor’s revoking of that decision.147 Gregory of Tours referred to the restitution of church buildings, attributing the wish to the pope, not the emperor. That fact would have reportedly angered Theoderic to such an extent that he dispatched bands of gladiators to murder the Catholics found travelling on the roads of Italy. Pope John decided to remonstrate with the king, but he was arrested and died in captivity.148

The Liber Pontificalis is consistent in referring to the restitution of the church buildings as Theoderic’s demand;149 the author of the Excerpta Valesiana also claims that the emperor had promised to fulfil all the requests expressed by the king’s envoys “except that those who had become reconciled and returned to the Catholic faith could by no means be restored to the Arians.”150

The differences in the various accounts are conspicuous and significant in the context of Theoderic’s religious policy. It may be assumed that Theoderic’s petition brought to Rome by the pope, senators, and bishops treated of the two issues: restitution of the church buildings and restitution of the “souls,” namely the possibility of a return of the Arians “converted” to the Catholic faith. “Converted,” because they might have been the followers of Arianism who joined the Catholic Church as if appropriated along with their church building. Perhaps, some more formal declaration may have been required on that occasion? Certainly, Theoderic would not have been concerned about the restitution of the buildings as such, but the restoration of their proper function, i.e., the reinstatement of the Arian (Gothic?) communities, with their own clergy and their own Church. At that time, some Romans had converted to Arianism,151 but it is worth noting that Theoderic would have likely not condoned any conversions and the Goths would not have coerced anyone to change their faith following the Gothic takeover of Italy, as affirmed by the Gothic envoy named Romeo, who had been entrusted with entering in negotiations with Belisarius, Justinian’s commander-in-chief during the campaign in Italy.152 The sources state that the king had sentenced a certain deacon to death, ← 41 | 42 → who wished to ingratiate himself with the ruler and converted to Arianism, explaining his verdict with the argument that those who would not persist in their faith could not remain loyal to the people.153

In my opinion, Giovanni B. Picotti is right in saying that this would not have amounted to religious tolerance, as the very concept would have been anachronistic in relation to ancient times. Theoderic did not wish to urge the populations of Gothic (Arian) and Roman (Catholic) origin to come together in one Church.154 It is easy to see that such a Church would have been much more difficult to control. For this reason, I would not agree with Biaggio Saitta’s view that, in consequence, Theoderic would not have tolerated mixed marriages.155 This may seem rather implausible, as the scale of the mixed marriages was far from reaching proportions that would turn it into a social problem, while they would have been motivated by political expediency. It is clear that this would apply to the upper classes in the first place, apparently without much regard for others. At the same time, Theoderic must have realized that mixed marriages would have been possible only with the provision that everybody respected the Roman law.156

The emperor agreed to restore the buildings, but would not allow the people to return to their Arian faith. In response, Theoderic decided to take a retaliatory action, as will be seen in Chapter 5:

“Then Symmachus, an advocate and a Jew, at the order of a tyrant rather than a king, announced on an appointed day, which was a Wednesday, the 26th of August, in the fourth indiction, under the consulship of Olybrius, that on the following Sabbath the Arians would take possession of the Catholic churches. But He who does not allow his faithful worshippers to be oppressed by unbelievers soon brought upon Theoderic the same punishment that Arius, the founder of his religion, had suffered; for the king was seized with a diarrhoea, and after three days of open bowels lost both his throne and his life on the very same day on which he rejoiced to attack the churches.”157 ← 42 | 43 →

At the same time, the kingdom of Theoderic saw an escalation in Jewish riots and other incidents aimed against the Catholics. Possibly, as Bruno Luiselli notes, they may have been the effect of the deterioration of the Arian-Catholic relations. The Jews may have taken advantage of the situation, just as they had done in Gaul, where they joined forces with the Arian Goths in order to act against Caesarius of Arles.158 The change in Theoderic’s attitude to the Catholics towards the end of his life contributed to the creation of the unfavourable image of the King of the Ostrogoths, which would ultimately give rise to many legends portraying him in the definitely negative terms.

57 Cf. PHILOSTORGIUS, HE II, 5; K. SCHÄFERDIEK, 1977, 502; K. SCHÄFERDIEK, 1979, 107–146; H. SIVAN, 1995, 280–292; E. PRINZIVALLI, 2004, 50; A. CHAUVOT, 1995, 864. On Wulfila’s life, consecration, and the disputed date of his death, cf. R. GRYSON 1980, 144–161. The years 261–262 have been proposed as well; S. LONGOSZ, 1983, 126–159 (also a list of the sources referring to Wulfila); K. ILSKI, 1995, 68–78; M. WILCZYŃSKI, 2005, 244–245.

58 Philostorgius (368–433) was an Arian and the author of the Church History in 12 volumes that encompass the years 300–425.

59 Eusebius of Nicomedia (d. 341), Patriarch of Constantinople since 338.

60 Cf. Antioch (341), SCL 1, 129–142.

61 Cf. SCL 6, 151, note A.

62 Cf. T. D. BARNES, 1990, 541–545. For a discussion of all the possibilities, see P. J. HEATHER, J. MATTHEWS, 1991, 132–133.

63 Cf. H. PIETRAS, 2007b, 35–50; L. AYRES, 2004, cap. V: “The Creation of ‘Arianism’: AD 340–350,” 105–130; K. SCHÄFERDIEK K., 2002, 320–329.

64 Cf. Nike (359), SCL 1, 235–236; SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE II, 41; R. W. MATHISEN, 1997, 672.

65 Nike (359), [in:] ATHANASIUS, De synodis 30, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. IV (trans. P. SCHAFF).

66 Cf. Antioch (341), SCL 1, 129–134.

67 Cf. Paris (360/361), SCL 1, 247.

68 Cf. H. PIETRAS, 2008, 855–869.

69 Cf. J. HUNTER, 1969, 338–362. Salvianus of Marseilles held that the Goths had used the mistranslated parts of the Bible and claimed that the Germanic Arianism had arisen from ignorance; cf. SALVIANUS MASSILIENSIS, De gubernatione Dei V, 2, 5–8; P. LEBEAU, 1963, 160–175; M. MAAS, 1992, 282.

70 The alphabet is mentioned by all of the relevant authors: SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE IV, 33; HERMIAS SOZOMENOS, HE VI, 37; PHILOSTORGIUS II, 5; THEODORETUS, HE IV, 37; JORDANES, Getica 51; AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita, et obitu Ulfilae (SCh 267). On the invention of the alphabet of the Gothic language, see also JORDANES, Getica 267. Cf. M. SIMONETTI, 1975, 442–443; J. STRZELCZYK, 1997, 56–57.

71 Cf. AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum XXVII, 5, 9.

72 Cf. AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 58.

73 Cf. HIERONYMUS, Chronicon, A.D. 369 (GCS 47, 245).

74 Cf. E. PRINZIVALLI, 2004, 52.

75 These and the subsequent events are depicted in SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE IV, 33, though not necessarily in chronological order.

76 Cf. AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum XXXI, 3.

77 Cf. J. LIEBESCHUETZ, 1990, 49; P. RÉGERAT, 1997, 171–184.

78 Cf. M. Simonetti, who opted for the hypothesis by E. A. Thompson, according to which the political conversion would have been invented by the Catholic opponents hostile to Valens; cf. E. A. THOMPSON, 1956, 370–371.

79 JORDAES, Getica 132 (trans. Ch. C. MIEROW). Cf. HERMIAS SOZOMENOS, HE VI, 37.


81 Cf. M. SIMONETTI, 1975, 390–391.



84 Cf. AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum XXVI, 4, 4. As inferred by D. WOODS, 1994, 220; M. B. & M. J. LESZKA, 2011, 52.

85 Cf. Serdica (343), VII, Decretum sinodi orientalium apud Serdicam episcoporum a parte arianorum, quod miserunt ad Africam, SCL 1, 170–183; SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE II, 20; HERMIAS SOZOMENOS, HE III, 11.

86 Cf. Antioch (341), SCL 1, 130–132.

87 Cf. ATHANASIUS, De synodis 1; J. T. LIENHARD, 1978, 415–437.

88 Cf. ATHANASIUS, De synodis 12; Cf. SCL 225–236.

89 Cf. ATHANASIUS, De synodis 38.


91 Cf. below.

92 Cf. A. CHAUVOT, 1995, 166–167. In his view, Wulfila and the Goths of his tribe had been Arians from the beginning. Arianism would have been one of the reasons for the dissemination of Gothic identity. Cf. P. J. HEATHER, 1992, 332; D. KASPRZAK, 2008, 29; A. SCHWARCZ, 1999, 454; C. SCHÄFER, 2001, 182–197. Some scholars do not speak of Arianism as an element of Gothic identity, citing various arguments (cf. P. AMORY, 1997, 236–276), but I prefer to avoid contesting the views which may be contrary to my own opinion and engage in a polemical discussion to prove them wrong.

93 Cf. H. PIETRAS, 2008, 864–868.

94 R. Collins refers to the Gothic liturgy and the Bible as additional elements defining their identity; cf. R. COLLINS, 1991, 216.

95 Cf. SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE IV, 34; AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum, XXXI, 4. Cf. J. STRZELCZYK, 1984, 97–99. The figure 200,000 can be found in ZOSIMOS, HN IV, 6.


97 Cf. AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum XXXI, 13–14; JORDANES, Getica, 137–38: Illa namque dies Gothorum famem Romanorumque securitatem ademit, coeperuntque Gothi iam non ut advenae et peregrini, sed ut cives et domini possessoribus imperare totasque partes septentrionales usque ad Danubium suo iuri tenere, quod conperiens in Antiochia Valens imperator mox armato exercitu in Thraciarum partes egreditur; ubi lacrimabile bello commisso vincentibus Gothis in quodam praedio iuxta Adrianopolim saucius ipse refugiens ignorantibusque, quod imperator in tam vili casula delitisceret, Gothis, ignemque, ut adsolet saeviente inimico, supposito, cum regali pompa crematus est, haut secus quam dei prorsus iudicio, ut ab ipsis igni conbureretur, quos ipse vera fide petentibus in perfidia declinasset ignemque caritatis ad gehennae ignem detorsisset quo tempore Vesegothae Thracias Daciaque ripense post tanti gloria tropaei tam quam solum genitalem potiti coeperunt incolere. Cf. J. STRZELCZYK, 1984, 99.

98 HIERONYMUS, Chronicon, A.D. 377: Gens Hunorum Gothos vastat, qui a Romanis sine armorum depositione suscepti per avaritiam Maximi ducis fame ad rebellandum coacti sunt. Superatis in congressione Romanis Gothi funduntur in Thracia.

99 Cf. M. SIMONETTI, “Euzoio di Antiochia,” 1876.


101 Cf. AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum XXXI, 12–13. Cf. J. STRZELCZYK, 1984, 100–102. Jerome’s Chronicle dates the events to the year 379: Lacrimabile bellum in Thracia, in quo deserente equitum praesidio Romanae legiones a Gothis cinctae usque ad internecionem caesae sunt: ipse imperator Valens, cum sagitta saucius fugeret et ob dolorem nimium saepe equo laberetur, ad cuiusdam villulae casam deportatus est, quo persequentibus barbaris et incensa domo sepultura quoque caruit.

102 Cf. AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, Rerum gestarum XXXI, 16; M. B. & M. J. LESZKA, 2011, 62.

103 Cf. K. ILSKI, 1999, 463–479.

104 CTh XVI, 1, 2: Cunctos populos, quos clementiae nostrae regit temperamentum, in tali volumus religione versari, quam divinum Petrum apostolum tradidisse Romanis religio usque ad nunc ab ipso insinuata declarat quamque pontificem Damasum sequi claret et Petrum Alexandriae episcopum virum apostolicae sanctitatis, hoc est, ut secundum apostolicam disciplinam evangelicamque doctrinam Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti unam deitatem sub parili maiestate et sub pia Trinitate credamus. Hanc legem sequentes Christianorum catholicorum nomen iubemus amplecti, reliquos vero dementes vesanosque iudicantes haeretici dogmatis infamiam sustinere nec conciliabula eorum ecclesiarum nomen accipere, divina primum vindicta, post etiam motus nostri, quem ex caelesti arbitrio sumpserimus, ultione plectendos (trans. C. PHARR).

105 Cf. Constantinopolis (381), c. 1, DSP 1, 70.

106 Constantinopolis (381), c. 2, DSP 1, 72.

107 Cf. SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE V, 11; HERMIAS SOZOMENOS, HE VII, 13; M. SIMONETTI, “Aussenzio di Durostorum,” 662; W. MYSZOR, 2001, 37.

108 AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 63: virtutem ab alto, item et: Accipietis virtutem supervenientem in vos Sancto Spirito, nec Deum nec deum nostrum, sed ministrum Cristi […] subditum et oboedientem in omnibus Filio, et Filium subditum et oboedientem et in omnibus Deo Patrique suo […] per Cristum eius in Spiritu Sancto ordinavit (trans. J. MARCHAND). Here and further on, the text as cited from R. Gryson’s edition (SCh 267), with all his emendations included; cf. M. SIMONETTI, 1976, 297–323.

109 ARIUS, Epistola ad Alexandrum; cf. H. PIETRAS, 2007a, 198.

110 Cf. B. DUMÉZIL, 2008, 687; ENNODIUS, Panegyricus Theodorico 80, MGH AA, VII, 213; J. MOORHEAD, 1992, 89, 109; thereafter, cf. AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 47.

111 Proverbs 8:22–25.

112 AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 45 (trans. J. MARCHAND).

113 Cf. AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 46.

114 AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 47 (trans. J. MARCHAND).

115 Cf. EUSEBIUS CAESARENSIS, Epistola ad suam parrochiam 7, DSP 1, 57.

116 Cf. AUXENTIUS, Epistola de fide, vita et obitu Ulfilae 61.

117 CTh XVI, 1, 4: Imppp. Valentinianus, Theodosius et Arcadius AAA. ad Eusignium praefectum praetorio. Damus copiam colligendi his, qui secundum ea sentiunt, quae temporibus divae memoriae Constanti sacerdotibus convocatis ex omni orbe Romano expositaque fide ab his ipsis, qui dissentire noscuntur, Ariminensi concilio, Constantinopolitano etiam confirmata in aeternum mansura decreta sunt. Conveniendi etiam quibus iussimus patescat arbitrium, scituris his, qui sibi tantum existimant colligendi copiam contributam, quod, si turbulentum quippiam contra nostrae tranquillitatis praeceptum faciendum esse temptaverint, ut seditionis auctores pacisque turbatae ecclesiae, etiam maiestatis capite ac sanguine sint supplicia luituri, manente nihilo minus eos supplicio, qui contra hanc dispositionem nostram obreptive aut clanculo supplicare temptaverint. Dat. X kal. feb. Mediolano Honorio nob[ili] p[uero] et Evodio conss (trans. C. PHARR).

118 Cf. CTh XVI, 1, 2, Thessalonicae (27 februarii 380).

119 Cf. M. B. & M. J. LESZKA, 2011, 64–66.

120 Cf. PLRE I, 379.

121 Cf. ZOSIMOS, HN V, 7.

122 Cf. JORDANES, Getica 176.


124 Cf. THEODORETUS, HE, V, 32; M. B. & M. J. LESZKA, 2011, 66.

125 Cf. P. BATIFFOL, 1899, 568–569; J. LIEBESCHUETZ, 1990, 169, and 190; A. CAMERON, J. LONG, 1993, 385.

126 On the burning, see SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS, HE VI, 6; ZOSIMUS, HN V, 18–22; MARCELLINUS COMES, Chronica, A.D. 399, MGH AA XI, 66. Cf. J. N. D. KELLY, 2001, 170–172.

127 Cf. GELASIUS, Epistola 95, 61; Coll. Avell. 390–392.

128 Cf. T. S. BROWN, 2007, 417–422.

129 Cf. C. SOTINEL, 1998, 316–317.

130 Theoderic founded many buildings for the Arians. However, this question is beyond the scope of the present book and would require a separate scholarly treatment. For a discussion of this subject, cf. the following works: C. CECCHELLI, 1960, 747–774; R. SÖRRIES, 1983; G. CARAVITA, 1993, 118–125; G. MONTANARI, 2002, 27–50; C. BARSANTI, 2008b, 185–202.

131 Cf. JORDANES, Getica 269.

132 Cf. Excerpta Valesiana 58; JORDANES, Getica 269; ENNODIUS, Panegyricus Theodorico 42, MGH AA, VII, 208.

133 Cf. W. ENSSLIN, 1959, 12; M. WILCZYŃSKI, 2001a, 415.

134 Cf. Excerpta Valesiana 58.

135 Cf. Epistulae Theodorici 4, MGH AA XII, 390.

136 Cf. B. LUISELLI, 1995, 306.

137 B. DUMÉZIL, 2008, 687.

138 Cf. W. ENSSLIN, 1959, 13; J. MOORHEAD, 1992, 11–12.

139 PAULUS DIACONUS, HR XV, 19. The course of the persecution is depicted in detail in VICTOR VITENSIS, Historia persecutionis Africanae provinciae tempore Geiserici et Hunerici regum Wandalorum, II, POK 14, Poznań 1930; J. STRZELCZYK, 2005, 149–153; R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010b, 118–123; I. MILEWSKI, 2011, 517–525.


141 Cf. ENNODIUS, Panegyricus Theodorico 80, MGH AA, VII, 213; J. MOORHEAD, 1992, 89, 109.

142 Cf. B. DUMÉZIL, 2008, 687.

143 Cf. G. CARAVITA, Teoderico. I Goti a Ravenna V–VI secolo, 40–48.

144 The principal source of information on the subject is the Liber Pontificalis 55. Cf. Excerpta Valesiana 94; see also B. LUISELLI, 1995, 311.

145 Cf. LP 55.

146 Excerpta Valesiana 15.88–89 (trans. J. C. ROLFE).

147 For a discussion of the relations between Theoderic and Pope John, cf. H. LÖWE, 1953, 83–100.

148 Cf. GREGORIUS TURONENSIS, Libri miraculum 40 (PL 71, 741).

149 Cf. LP 55.

150 Excerpta Valesiana 15.91 (trans. J. C. ROLFE).

151 Cf. T. S. BROWN, 2007, 419.

152 Cf. PROKOPIOS KAISAREUS, De bello Gothico II, 6; T. S. BURNS, 1980, 125–126. In case when members of the Germanic tribes joined the Roman armies, they could convert from their pagan religion to Christianity; cf. P. SCARDIGLI, 1967, 47–86.

153 Cf. THEODOROS ANAGNOSTES, Excerpta II, 18, (PG 86/1, 193; THEODOROS ANAGNOSTES, Kirchengeschichte, herausgegeben von Günther Christian Hansen, Berlin 1971); cf. A. GARZYA, 1995, 344.

154 Cf. G. B. PICOTTI, 1956, 180; T. S. BROWN, 1993, 85–87. According to P. AMORY, Theoderic would seek the separation, rather than assimilation, of those two peoples, cf. P. AMORY, 1997, 52.

155 Cf. B. SAITTA, 1993, 70.

156 Cf. O. BERTOLINI, 1956, 25–28; B. SAITTA, 1990, 399; R. SORACI, 1974, 45–72 and 153–160.

157 Excerpta Valesiana 16.94–95 (trans. J. C. ROLFE).

158 Cf. Vita Caesarii I, 29, MGH SRMer., III, 467.

| 45 →

Chapter II
Liber Pontificalis 50 on Felix III (13 III 483–25 II 492)

“1. Felix160, born in Rome, son of Felix, [priest of the titulus of Fasciola]161 held the see 8 years, 11 months and 15 days.162 [He was bishop in the time of king Odoacer until the time of Theodoric [king163]. He built the basilica of St Agapitus close to the basilica of St Laurence the martyr].”164

“2. During his episcopate, among other things, the fathers in Greece communicated that Peter of Alexandria established communion with Acacius [of Constantinople]. Then, the venerable Felix [archbishop of the Apostolic See of Rome] designated a plenipotentiary appointed by a synod assembled at the see and condemned Acacius and Peter.”165

The following passage that can be found in the second recension: “in the time of king Odoacer until the time of Theodoric [king]” seems to suggest that a certain period of time would have elapsed between the rule of Odoacer166 and Theoderic’s reign.167 Most probably, however, this sentence had been added to ← 45 | 46 → the original text, as it might no longer have been obvious that the reader remembered that fact.

1. The Beginning of Theoderic’s Rule in Italy

The question of the dates relating to Theoderic’s ascension to power has already been discussed in much detail by many authors,168 and I will only refer to this issue as much as may be necessary. To the author of the note on Felix III in the Liber Pontificalis, it would have been apparently of little significance, but if the mention were to point, though indirectly, to the fact that it would not have happened in a day, as it must have been a certain process (as I understand the above sentence), let us see if any other sources offer some justification. For this purpose, several dates should be taken into consideration.

In 476, Odoacer divested Romulus Augustulus of his imperial title, thus assuming authority in Italy.169 According to Paul the Deacon, Odoacer ruled for the next 14 years, until the arrival of Theoderic from the East.170 It would mean that he dated the beginning of Theoderic’s rule to 490. On the other hand, Jordanes states that Odoacer ruled for 13 years: usque ad Theodorici praesentiam […] obtenuit. 171 Therefore, his reign would have begun in 489.

In 484, Theoderic was invited and received with honours by Zeno. The emperor acknowledged him as his son, after which Theoderic took part in a triumph ceremony, at Zeno’s expense, and was awarded consulship,172 which, as Jordanes ← 46 | 47 → recounts, “the world recognizes as the good of the highest order and the very special glory.”173 Moreover, Zeno placed an equestrian statue in honour of Theoderic in front of the palace.174 This is also confirmed by the author of the Excerpta Valesiana, who explains the emperor’s generosity with his gratitude for Theoderic’s aid in vanquishing the usurpation of Basiliskos, at the same time referring to the campaign in Italy, which I shall discuss in more detail further on.175 To put it more precisely, Theoderic became an ordinary consul in charge of the Eastern part of the Empire, not an honorary one in the West, which is the point stressed by Elena Malaspina.176

In the years 484–488, the relations between Theoderic and the emperor would definitely not always follow along the peaceful lines, as the Gothic ruler’s political ambitions were far-reaching indeed. For instance, in 487, he threatened that he would go so far as to seize Constantinople, since, as Marcellinus puts it, “he could not be content with what he had.”177 It seemed that Zeno and Theoderic would not have much trust in one another.178

In 489, in agreement with the emperor Zeno, Theoderic entered Italy.179 Let us have a look at his speech reportedly addressed to the emperor, in an attempt to induce the latter to agree that Theoderic become king in the West: ← 47 | 48 →

It is very likely only a literary representation of one of the talks between Theoderic and Zeno, but if Jordanes renders this version in his summary of Cassiodorus’ book, it may have been identical with the original contents of the conversation, which would mean that the members of Theoderic’s court desired for such a version of the account. It is possible that some sort of a deal may have been forged between Zeno and Theoderic.181 It is hard to resist the impression that the account was intended to arouse feelings of admiration for Theoderic, for his cunning and courage. Jordanes goes on to say that the emperor “was anguished over the estrangement, but he did not want to sadden Theoderic.”182 This distinctly subdued phrasing might have been used to conceal the fact that the emperor had been pondering on whether he should agree to Theoderic’s proposal, not necessarily in fear of being anguished over his imminent departure. According to Procopius of Caesarea, Zeno would attempt to persuade Theoderic into conquering Italy and defeating Odoacer,183 perhaps with a view to have the latter eliminated before he began to pose any threat. In the emperor’s eyes, the rule of Theoderic in Italy may have seemed a safer option. ← 48 | 49 →

Ultimately, Zeno was to give his consent, but on the condition that following the conquest of Italy Theoderic would rule there on the emperor’s behalf and only until the arrival of the latter.184 This date is confirmed in some other sources as well.185

Michel Rouche offers his own interpretation of this event and suggests that Zeno would have proposed the rule over Italy to Theoderic so that the latter could leave and move on to somewhere else.186 Jordanes reports that “before he left, [the emperor] entrusted the Senate and the people of Rome to him.”187 Paul the Deacon relates a similar account: “By a special decree, he conferred Italy on him and confirmed it by presenting him with a sacred vestment. He submitted the Senate and the people of Rome to his custody and allowed him to leave.”188 On the other hand, the Excerpta Valesiana offers a brief note that “he presented him with generous gifts and dispatched him to Italy.”189 Jordanes’ words should be understood in the sense that the emperor recommended the rights of the Senate and the people of Rome to his attention, to extend his custody over them, or act in agreement with the Senate. Likewise, Rouche offers a different view of the situation and infers that the passage carries the implicit information on the insignia of authority (SPQR) being handed over to Theoderic.190 It would mean that, from then on, he was to fight and win under that sign, as if effectively assuming the post of commander-in-chief of the Imperial troops, which is not, in fact, out of the question.

Another chronicle yields yet another interpretation: under 511, it says briefly that Theoderic had been removed by Zeno, after which he arrived in Italy, forced ← 49 | 50 → Unulf to flee and killed Odoacer.191 In 511, Theoderic did not enjoy much support in the south of Gaul, as we shall see further on, and hence this particular opinion.192 In all likelihood, therefore, the circumstances of the Goths’ departure from the territories in the Eastern Roman Empire and their emergence in Italy were not entirely clear and would lead to various, at times contradictory, interpretations, just as would all of the diplomatic talks. The followers of the emperor were concerned with making his role appear more prominent, while Theoderic’s supporters wanted to downplay that role.193 One way or another, Theoderic entered Italy and would proceed to tighten the ring around Odoacer and his forces. According to some estimates, he had 100,000 men under his command.194 Everything seems to point to the fact that Theoderic understood very well that the success of his rule in Italy should depend, on the one hand, on his continuing to remain in the emperor’s shadow and, on the other, on being able to prevent anybody else in the West from overshadowing him.195

In 491, Theoderic’s rule was sanctioned by the emperor Zeno. Massimiliano Vitiello notes that the consulship dates present in the Excerpta Valesiana, namely the years 490 and 491, may be indicative of the fact that they would not as yet have been counted as the years of Theoderic’s reign.196 Unfortunately, he does not seem to have drawn the correct conclusions, unlike Jan Prostko-Prostyński.197 As a matter of fact, he draws on the account by Jordanes, who states that even during the conflict between Theoderic and Odoacer, when the latter fled for Ravenna and attempted to seek a truce, it was in the third year following his arrival in Italy, in 491, that Theoderic would begin to wear the regal vestments, with the emperor Zeno’s approval, as the ruler of the Goths and Romans. If it were to be reconciled with the information by Paul the Deacon, it would imply that he ← 50 | 51 → would not have used the king’s vestments until he assumed full authority.198 He married Audefleda, daughter (?) of Clovis, king of the Franks, here named Lodoin.199 Vitiello dates those events to 493.200 However, according to the Excerpta Valesiana, Theoderic dispatched Festus, chairman of the Senate,201 to Zeno, “in the hope that the emperor would allow him to don the regal vestments.”202 It would have likely taken place in late 490.203 Zeno died on April 9, 491,204 i.e., shortly after Festus’ return. Theoderic had already managed to dispatch another delegation led by Flavius Anicius Probus Faustus, also known as Faustus Niger.205 He held consulship for 490, and served as magister officii in 493 and the king’s ambassador at Constantinople in the years 492–494.206 Pope Gelasius, in his special Commonitorium, had also entrusted him207 with attending to some ecclesiastical matters, which would testify to the good relations between the Pope and the king. The matter in question was the “Acacian schism.”208 It is suspected that the letter might have been a forgery,209 but Gelasius makes reference to that mission in his Epistle 12 to the emperor Anastasius.210 ← 51 | 52 →

The Excerpta Valesiana report that the envoys left for Constantinople but the emperor Zeno had died by the time they reached the capital. Consequently, their assignment would have been left unsettled (strictly speaking, the purpose of their mission remains a mystery). However, when the news of the emperor’s death arrived at Ravenna, the Goths proceeded to proclaim Theoderic king, “not waiting for the new emperor’s orders.”211 Let us have a look at how Evagrius Scholasticus describes the new emperor:

“This Anastasius, being of a peaceful disposition, was altogether averse to the introduction of changes, especially in the state of the church…”212

If such an opinion had been already spreading at the time of his accession to power, the Goths in Italy may well have been rather unconcerned about him. Theoderic had already been the king of the Goths for many years, at least since the time when he received the leadership from his father, i.e., around 474, or even ca. 470/471, when he captured Singidunum (present-day Belgrade), his first dominium.213 Since Jordanes records this particular piece of information as the first one referring to Theoderic’s dominium, it would have been probably mentioned in Cassiodorus’ lost work History of the Goths, summarized in Jordanes’ chronicle. It is then not certain why Vitiello would believe that Cassiodorus failed to mention the year of the beginning of Theoderic’s reign in the Chronicle,214 as it had already been stated in the History.

Considering the lack of any conclusive evidence, let us at least hypothesize on the beginnings of Theoderic’s formal rule in Italy and try to reconstruct the course of the events.

With Odoacer ousted from power and forced into flight, Theoderic had fulfilled his obligation towards Zeno and conquered Italy for the emperor. In effect, he delegated Festus to recount the events to the emperor and obtain his permission to rule Italy formally. The permission was granted, but Theoderic received no ← 52 | 53 → crown. It may be supposed that his compatriots would have seen it as a somewhat limited measure of trust, as they refrained from officially recognizing Theoderic’s royal title despite his recently donned monarch’s vestments. It would not be long before he sent off another delegation, the one led by Faustus Niger. The objective of the mission is not known, but it would have apparently had something to do with ensuring the crown for him, as the Goths did not hesitate to affirm his royal title upon the news of Zeno’s death and would not wait for the election of a new emperor. The move may have been intended to exert pressure on the new emperor, to put him in a fait accompli situation where he would not only sanction Theoderic’s rule but also allow him to assume the royal crown. It actually came to happen in 497 with the aid of the same man, Festus, who had already proved to act with much success back in 490/491.

The Excerpta Valesiana seem to count the years of Theoderic’s rule from 493, distinguishing it clearly from the time of his arrival in Italy. The author notes that Theoderic had ruled for 33 years215 (though this mention is apparently an interpolation), “showing much good will in all situations,” and then refers to 30 years of his reign as a happy and peaceful time.216 In the same year, Theoderic killed Odoacer with his own hands, as the Excerpta Valesiana recounts,217 had his wife starved to death and their son banished, only to have him assassinated later on.218 Since then, there would have been no more rivals to challenge Theoderic’s authority.219 As Ernest Stein noted, this horror would mark the beginning of one of the most fortunate periods of rule in Italy.220 ← 53 | 54 →

2. Theoderic and the “Acacian Schism” – a Prelude

The so-called “Acacian schism” began in 484, during the pontificate of Felix III, and would last until as late as 519 (the pontificate of Hormisdas).221

The disruption of the ecclesiastical communion between the Bishop of Rome Felix III and Patriarch of Constantinople Acacius222 took place when the latter established communion with the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch, who refused to accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451),223 which was of great importance to Rome. Moreover, Acacius failed to take part in a synod of Rome, which he had been summoned by the Pope to attend, thus exposing himself to accusations of supporting the Monophysite views of Eutyches, who was condemned at Chalcedon. Notably, the emperor Zeno would be accused of the same thing.224 His “fault” was that he had enabled Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch to re-establish communion on the strength of a document known as the Henotikon.225

The Liber Pontificalis reports concisely that during the pontificate of Felix III:226

“the news came from the fathers in Greece that Peter of Alexandria established communion with Acacius [of Constantinople]. The venerable Felix [Archbishop of the Apostolic See of Rome] then appointed a plenipotentiary designated by the synod assembled at the see and condemned Acacius and Peter.”227

This passage makes reference to Peter Mongos, who was elected as Bishop of Alexandria following the death of Timothy Ailuros. The emperor Zeno was dissatisfied at first and even condemned Peter to death, replacing him with Timothy ← 54 | 55 → Salophakialos.228 On the other hand, another contender to the See of St Mark, John Talaios, would go to Constantinople and ask the emperor to allow the people to elect their bishop next time. The emperor agreed on the condition that John take an oath he would not make an attempt to become one. Nonetheless, when Timothy Salophakialos died, John would have allegedly bribed his way to become elected.229 Zeno had him exiled (John left for Rome230) and proceeded to write his Henotikon231 (which will be mentioned a bit further on); he would also consent to Peter Mongos’ accession to the see if the latter signed the document authored by the emperor.232 Peter agreed, subscribed the Henotikon, and proceeded to propagate it in Alexandria.233

The document was conceived as a well-balanced compromise between the followers of the two natures in Christ and those of the one (i.e., divine) nature, which was fundamentally the most prominent theological problem during the Council of Chalcedon. It was not meant to question the orthodox position, as its main concern was to circumvent the theological issue that had arisen during and after the Council, containing references to the Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople I (381), and Ephesus (431).234

Acacius was openly charged with supporting the adversaries of the Council of Chalcedon235 and condemned.236 The schism would set in even further when ← 55 | 56 → Fravitas, Acacius’ successor, sent a conciliatory letter to Rome but would not decide to condemn his predecessor.237

The common recognition of the Council of Nicaea would not have posed much of a problem already since the emperor Theodosius’ edict of 380, which had imposed it on everybody else except for the Goths.238 As for the Council of Ephesus, all the principal sees shared the same view, while the followers of Nestorius (who was condemned there) had to move farther to the East. However, the recognition of the synod of Constantinople (381) would pose a certain problem. The synod sanctioned the aforementioned Theodosian constitution on the Nicene Creed, with the intention of putting an end to contentious disputes, but at the same time it recognized the superior position of Constantinople in the East,239 which was not very well received in Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome. The first two sees considered themselves to be churches of Apostolic origins, i.e., “superior,” whereas the See of Rome disapproved it on political grounds.

The extant documents do not indicate any important theological decisions that would have been taken there, except for the upholding of the position affirmed by Constantinople. Canon 1, which affirms the Nicene Creed as obligatory and unalterable, only cites the emperor Theodosius’ constitutions of 380 and January 381:240

“The creed of the holy Fathers assembled at Nicaea in Bithynia cannot be changed but ought to be preserved in all of its authority; likewise, all heresies should be excluded, particularly the heresy of Eunomians, that is, Anomeians, Arians or Eudoxians, and ← 56 | 57 → semi-Arians, also called Pneumatomachians, as well as [the heresies] of Sabelians, Marcellians, Photinians, and Apollinarians.”241

Even the very wording of this canon points out that the information concerning the formulation of any confession of faith during that convocation is just a myth, and the so-called “Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed” had not existed prior to 451, when it was pronounced as having been formulated in Constantinople in 381, although even in 448 the synod of Constantinople acknowledged only the Nicene (325) and Ephesian confessions of faith (431).242

The elevation of this synod of the Eastern bishops to the rank of a council equal to the Councils of Nicaea and Ephesus took place at Chalcedon, when, in view of the extant sources, the expression “Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed” was used for the first time.243 For this reason, if someone affirmed the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon and agreed with them, it would signify that they also recognized this particular mention of the formula of faith (allegedly formulated there) as well as Canon 28 of the same synod that confirmed the leading role of Constantinople in the East.244 Rome would not acknowledge the synod of Constantinople in 381 as a general council or agree to the superior role of Constantinople, but recognized the Council of Chalcedon as it condemned Eutyches and Monophysitism and praised Pope Leo and his Christological document Tomus ad Flavianum, treating of the two natures in Christ.245

It appears that there were Christians in the East, especially in Antioch and Alexandria, who would have possibly endorsed the doctrine of Chalcedon, yet they could not have approved of the elevated stature of the new see. One of them may have been Timothy Ailuros, Bishop of Alexandria in the years 457–477 (only for three years as sole bishop, and for the rest of his tenure in opposition to Timothy Salophakialos), who was regarded as a Monophysite and adhered to the decisions of Nicaea and Ephesus, but refused to acknowledge the councils of Constantinople and Chalcedon, as communicated in a letter of his followers. There is nothing Monophysitic about this document; nonetheless, they state very clearly that they ← 57 | 58 → know of an assembly of bishops at the capital but do not consider it as a legitimate synod and do not recognize the Council of Chalcedon.246

There were also others who became reconciled with the necessity to recognize the capital of the Empire as superior in the ecclesiastical hierarchy as well, even though they would view the doctrine of the two natures as a novelty and a result of the Nestorian influence. In the emperor’s eyes, it seemed that he could pass over such subtleties as one or two natures in Christ but only on the strength of the reliable church authorities and on the condition of elevating the position of Constantinople.

However, Peter of Alexandria established communion with Peter the Fuller of Antioch,247 an adamant opponent of Chalcedon, the fact which was disturbing to Patriarch Acacius of Constantinople, who attempted to find some consensus with the emperor on diplomatic grounds but was rather reluctant to become an overt enemy of the decisions of Chalcedon.248 His main concern was to preserve the privileged status of his see and, for this reason, he would not stand for rejecting Chalcedon altogether, simply because it would have meant that the decision referring to the status of Constantinople. In effect, he convoked a synod at the capital and condemned Peter the Fuller.249 In response, Peter wrote a letter to appease the situation, where he stated that he had not rejected the decisions of Chalcedon. According to Evagrius,250 the letter was intended to deceive Acacius.

The emperor and Acacius perceived the Henotikon as a good solution. It avoided mentioning Chalcedon, offered no support to either Monophysitic or Duophysitic party, but emphasized the important position of Constantinople. For these reasons, it was not well received in Rome.

It may be assumed that Theoderic would have seen the “Acacian schism” as something of an opportunity, primarily because the divisions within the Catholic Church were favourable to the Arians. Political considerations of the issue were of as much importance as religious aspects. First of all, Arianism became the Goths’ ← 58 | 59 → “national” faith251 as well as a constituent element of their identity.252 It is then much easier, in this light, to understand some of the decisions and actions taken by Theoderic, which would simply point out that he did not oppose the schism and would rather concentrate on turning the whole situation to his advantage. The attitude of Theoderic towards the “Acacian schism” is a complex and elusive question, fairly difficult to render in comprehensive and coherent terms, exactly as it is the case with respect to the whole extent of his religious policy (cf. Giovanni Battista Picotti’s opinion).253

The synod mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis is an otherwise unattested event. As a matter of fact, it may have been a council of the local clergy (synodus sedis suae) with whom the Pope decided on the question of sending a delegation to Constantinople. In all likelihood, it would have taken place shortly after the promulgation of the Henotikon, in 482.

“3. Three years later, the emperor Zeno communicated that Acacius had agreed to [do] his penance. Pope Felix convoked a synod and dispatched two bishops, Misenus and Vitalis, to Acacius and, should they find him an adherent of Peter, they were to renew the anathema, and if not, they would present him with instructions on his penance. When the two bishops arrived at Constantinople [or Heraclea, according to some of the manuscripts], they were bribed and did not proceed as ordered by the Apostolic See.”254

The synod “after three years” is the one that took place on 28 July 484. Evagrius recounts that John of Alexandria addressed a letter to Felix, asking the Pope to condemn Acacius for remaining in communion with Peter.255 These events had occurred prior to Theoderic’s arrival in Italy, and I have only mentioned them here in passing. Let us note, however, that the accounts may differ as to the city, ← 59 | 60 → Constantinople or Heraclea. The earlier source Epitome Feliciana makes reference to the capital, but the manuscripts of the groups II and III (Mommsen) mention Heraclea. The latter option is not as incongruous as it may seem at first. Heraclea was a harbour on the route to Constantinople, and the envoys must have travelled by sea.256 Besides, Heraclea had always been the metropolitan see for the city of Byzantium and the transformation of the latter into Constantinople would not have changed that status at all in the eyes of the Roman pontiffs, who would not regard, only if strictly pro forma, the bishopric of Constantinople as a metropolitan see. It is then quite possible that the Pope would have dispatched his delegation to Heraclea in the first place, as it was formally the metropolitan see for the suffraganate of Constantinople. The alleged corruption of the two bishops who were sent on that mission would be subsequently debated during several synods.

“4. When they arrived at Rome, to the apostolic see, Pope Felix summoned a synod257 and, after the matter had been considered, the both bishops, Misenus and Vitalis, were found guilty and removed from communion. Then, Bishop Misenus admitted that he had taken the money and the synod determined the time for his penance. It happened during the reign of king Odoacer.”258

According to Evagrius,259 the news of the betrayal of Misenus and Vitalis was brought to Rome by a Constantinopolitan monk named Simeon and presbyter Silvan, who accompanied the bishops.260 J. Wojda argues that the condemnation of Acacius was carried through by the authority of the Pope, rather than by the synod, as the latter would only have played a strictly auxiliary role here. This argumentation seems to be slightly anachronistic in view of our knowledge of the fact that the synod, presided over by the Pope, had indeed taken place, but there is no evidence on any theoretical disputes referring to the Pope’s superior position or, alternatively, the superior position of the synod.261 ← 60 | 61 →

It is difficult to ascertain if the annotation of the last sentence is of any significance. It appears in the first recension and it seems as if the author had wished to make a distinction between the action towards the “Acacian schism” before and during the reign of Theoderic. Nonetheless, this cannot be regarded as a strong argument.

“5. He performed two December ordinations in Rome, 28 priests, 5 deacons; for [various] places 31 bishops. He was buried in St Paul’s. The bishopric was vacant 5 days.”262

“6. [After his death a decree about the whole church was issued by the priests and deacons <that no one should ever presume to take precipitate action on a matter which should at some time come up for legal investigation>]”263

The duration of Felix III’s pontificate, as stated in the Liber Pontificalis, makes it possible to determine that he died on March 1, 492, shortly after Theoderic had been recognized as king by his subjects. Although Odoacer did not relinquish his grip on power, it appeared that there was no way but to accept the reality of Theoderic’s rule in Italy. Also, it was not certain at all what position the emperor would take on the two most important issues: the “Acacian schism” and the relations with Theoderic. Would he agree to his arbitrarily proclaiming himself as king or allow an Arian to exercise authority with the emperor’s consent?

The reaction of Pope Felix is not known. Was it hope or apprehension? The final sentence of the passage from the Liber Pontificalis (recension II) is noteworthy: Cessavit episcopatum dies V. The bishopric was vacant for five days only, while the presbyters and deacons would have very soon taken some decisions, which would have otherwise been brought to conclusion after a lengthy period of time. Why were they in such a hurry? Could not they have waited for the election of a new bishop? Perhaps they were apprehensive about not easily predictable actions of Theoderic as well as those of the new bishop? The sources do not provide any account of the election.

159 Cf. Regesta Pontificum Romanorum ab condita Ecclesia ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII, ed. Philippus Jaffé, ed. secunda ausp. Gulielmi Wattenbach, curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, Lipsiae: Veit et Comp. 1885, 591–618.

160 He may have been the same Felix, whom Leo had entrusted with the renovation of St Paul’s Basilica, according to one of the extant epitaph inscriptions: DE ROSSI, Inscriptiones Christianae, vol. 1, 831; L. M. DUCHESNE, vol. 1, 240, n. 7.

161 Only in the second recension. According to MARCELLINUS COMES, Chronicon, A.D. 482: ordinatus, vixit annos XII. The present building is the Church of Saints Nereus and Achilles near the baths of Caracalla; cf. R. BRATOŽ, “Felice III.”

162 According to the second recension: 17 days.

163 As present in some of the codices.

164 LP 50, 1: Felix, natione Romanus, ex patre Felice presbitero [de titulo Fasciolae], sedit ann. VIII mens. XI dies XV. [Hic fuit temporibus Odoacris regis usque ad tempora Theodorici regis. Hic fecit basilicam sancti Agapiti iuxta basilicam sancti Laurenti martyris].

165 LP 50, 2: Huius episcopatum iterum venit relatio a patres Greciarum, Petrum Alexandrino revocatum ad communionem ab Acacio [episcopo Constantinopolitano]. Tunc venerabilis papa Felix [archiepiscopus sedis apostolicae urbis Romae] mittens defensore ex constituto synodi sedis suae, et damnavit Acacio cum Petro.

166 Cf. PLRE II, 791–793.

167 Cf. PLRE II, 1077–1084.

168 E.g., M. VITIELLO, 2005a, 39–55.

169 Cf. MARCELLINUS COMES, Chronicon, A.D. 476, MGH AA XI, 91: Odoacar rex Gothorum Romam optinuit. Orestem Odoacer ilico trucidavit. Augustulum filium Orestis Odoacer in Lucullano Campaniae castello exilii poena damnavit. Hesperium Romanae gentis imperium, quod septingentesimo nono urbis conditae anno primus Augustorum Octavianus Augustus tenere coepit, cum hoc Augustulo periit, anno decessorum regni imperatorum quingentesimo vigesimo secundo, Gothorum dehinc regibus Romam tenentibus. Cf. also, e.g., R. A. KRIEGER, 1991, 371–381.

170 Cf. PAULUS DIACONUS, HR 15, 10: deiecto ad Augustali dignitate Augustolo urbem Odouacer ingressus totius Italiae adeptus est regnum. Quod dum per annos quattuordecim nullo inquietante tenuisset, ab Orientis tunc adveniens Gothorum rex Theodericus Italiam possesurus intravit. For a listing of relevant excerpts from the chronicles, see M. MELI, 1991, 298–305.

171 JORDANES, Getica 243. For a similar account, cf. Excerpta Valesiana 10.45: Odoacar […] deposito Augustulo de imperio, factus est rex mansitque in regno annos XIII.

172 Cf. MARCELLINUS COMES, Chronicon, A.D. 483, MGH AA XI, 92; VICTOR TUNNUNENSIS, Chronica, A.D. 484, MGH AA XI, 190; M. WILCZYŃSKI, 2001a, 436–439.

173 JORDANES, Getica 289.

174 Cf. JORDANES, Getica 289. It is not known when such a statue would have been erected or if it existed at all; cf. M. WILCZYŃSKI, 2001a, 436 (n. 85).

175 Excerpta Valesiana 11.49: Zeno itaque recompensans beneficiis Theodericum, quem fecit patricium et consulem, donas ei multum et mittens eum ad Italiam. Cf. JORDANES, Getica 291; PAULUS DIACONUS, HR 15, 14. Cf. S. ORLANDI, 1997, 39; J. MOORHEAD, 1984b, 261. On the usurper Basiliskos, cf. M. B. LESZKA, 1993, 71–78; M. REDIES, 1997, 213–214; J. PROSTKO-PROSTYŃSKI, 2000, 259–265.

176 Cf. E. MALASPINA, 2003–2005b, 32–33.

177 MARCELLINUS COMES, Chronicon, A.D. 487, MGH AA XI, 93: Theodoricus rex Gothorum Zenonis Augusti numquam beneficiis satiatus cum magna suorum manu usque ad regiam civitatem et Melentiadam oppidum infestus accessit plurimaque loca igne cremata ad novensem Moesiae civitatem, unde advenerat, remeavit; BEDA VENERABILIS, Chronica maior, A.D. 488, MGH AA XIII, no. 501, 305–306; cf. P. HEATHER, 2005, 223.

178 Cf. A. CARUSO, 1998, 35; J. MOORHEAD, 1984b, 261–266.

179 MARCELLINUS COMES, Chronicon, A.D. 489, MGH AA XI, 93: Idem Theodoricus rex Gothorum optatam occupavit Italiam. Odoacer itidem rex Gothorum metu Theodorici perterritus Ravennam est clausus. porro ab eodem Theodorico periuriis inlectus interfectusque est; CASSIODORUS, Chronica, A.D. 489, MGH AA XI, 159: His conss. felicissimus atque fortissimus dn. rex Theodericus intravit Italiam; MARIUS EPISCOPUS AVENTICENSIS, Chronica, MGH AA XI, 233.

180 JORDANES, Getica 291: “Hesperia”, inquid, “plaga, quae dudum decessorum prodecessorumque vestrorum regimine gubernata est, et urbs illa caput orbis et domina quare nunc sub regis Thorcilingorum Rogorumque tyrranide fluctuatur? dirige me cum gente mea, si praecepis, ut et hic expensarum pondere careas et ibi, si adiutus a domino vicero, fama vestrae pietatis inradiet. expedit namque, ut ego, qui sum servus vester et filius, si vicero, vobis donantibus regnum illud possedeam; haut ille, quem non nostis, tyrranico iugo senatum vestrum partemque rei publicae captivitatis servitio premat. ego enim si vicero, vestro dono vestroque munere possedebo; si victus fuero, vestra pietas nihil amittit, immo, ut diximus, lucratur expensas” (trans. Ch. C. MIEROW).

181 Cf. V. NERI, 1995, 326.

182 JORDANES, Getica 292 (trans. Ch. C. MIEROW).

183 Cf. PROKOPIOS KAISAREUS, De bello Gothico I, 1.

184 Excerpta Valesiana 11.49: Cui Theodericus pactuatus est, ut si victus fuisset Odoacer, pro merito laborum suorum loco eius, dum adveniret, tantum praeregnaret. Ergo, superveniente Theoderico patricio de civitate Nova cum gente Gothica, missus ab imperatore Zenone de partibus Orientis ad defendendam sibi Italiam.

185 CASSIODORUS, Chronicon, with the following information recorded under 489: His conss [sc. Probino et Eusebio] felicissimus atque fortissimus dominus rex Theodericus intravit Italiam (MGH AA XI, 159); MARCELLINUS offers the same facts, yet without bias in the ruler’s favour, while also noting, under the previous year, that he had already left for Italy by then: Chronica, A.D. 488–489, MGH AA XI, 93. For a reconstruction of the deal made in 488, see J. PROSTKO-PROSTYŃSKI, 1994, 111.

186 Cf. M. ROUCHE, 1996, 219. For the same opinion, cf. F. CARDINI, 2009, cap. 1.

187 JORDANES, Getica 292: senatum populumque ei commendans Romanum.

188 PAULUS DIACONUS, HR XV, 14: Italiamque ei per pragmaticum tribuens sacri etiam velaminis dono confirmavit, senatum illi populumque Romanum commendans abire permisit.

189 Excerpta Valesiana 11.49: donans ei multum et mittens eum in Italiam.

190 Cf. M. ROUCHE, 1996, 219.

191 Chronica Gallica a 511: Theodericus expulsus a Zenone imperatore ingressus Italiam fugato Unulfo et occiso Odofagro; MGH AA 9, 665. The chronicler dates this event to the 11th year of Zeno’s reign, which does not seem to correspond with the actual dates (he reigned in the years 474–491). Cf. R. BURGESS, 2001, 85–100.

192 For a survey of various opinions on this point as of 30 years ago, see M. REYDELLET, 1981, 199–201.

193 Cf. P. HEATHER, 2005, 223–225.

194 Cf. P. HEATHER, 2005, 243; J. MOORHEAD, 1992, 17–31.

195 E. BACH, 1957, 419: Théoderic avait compris le prix du succès d’un chef germanique dans l’empire romain; il lui fallait strictement respecter la souveraineté de l’empire romain, mais il ne pouvait admettre aucune autre piussance à ses côtés en Italie.

196 Cf. M. VITIELLO, 2005a, 43.

197 Cf. J. PROSTKO-PROSTYŃCKI, 1994, 131ff.


199 JORDANES, Getica 295: tertioque, ut diximus, anno ingressus sui in Italiam Zenonemque imperatorem consultum, privatum habitum suaeque gentis vestitum reponens, insignem regium amictum, quasi iam Gothorum Romanorumque regnator adsumit, missaque legatione ad Lodoin Francorum regem, filiam eius Audefledam sibi in matrimonio petit. In a letter addressed to him, Theoderic used the name Luduin, cf. CASSIODORUS, Variae II, 41; PAULUS DIACONUS, HR XV, 20.

200 Cf. M. VITIELLO, 2005a, 91. For similar accounts, see J. STRZELCZYK, 2005, 127 and P. HEATHER, 2005, 227. Following his account of Odoacer’s assassination, Vitiello concludes: All’indomani della victoria, l’esercito proclamò re Teodorico.

201 Cf. PLRE II, 467–469.

202 Excerpta Valesiana 11.53: Et mittens legationem Theodericus Festum, caput senati, ad Zenonem imperatorem et ab eodem sperans vestem induere regiam. For more on Festus, cf. a discussion of the Liber Pontificalis text on Pope Anastasius II.

203 Cf. E. STEIN, 1949, 56–57.

204 Cf. VICTOR TUNNUNENSIS, Chronica II, 6, MGH AA XI, 185.

205 Cf. PLRE II, 454–456.

206 Cf. Excerpta Valesiana 12. 57; PLRE II, 454; P. A. B. LLEWELLYN, 1977, 258; J. MOORHEAD, 1984a, 109.

207 Cf. GELASIUS, Epistola 10; THIEL 341–348.

208 For a comprehensive account of the events that originated the schism, see V. GROSSI, 2000, 423–428.

209 Cf. W. HAACKE, 1939, 37–38.

210 Cf. GELASIUS, Epistola 12; THIEL 349–358.

211 Excerpta Valesiana 12.57: Et moritur Constantinopolim Zenon imperator et factus est imperator Anastasius. Theodericus enim, qui in legationem direxerat Faustum Nigrum ad Zenonem, at ubi cognita morte eius antequam legatio reverteretur, ut ingressus est Ravennam et occidit Odoacrem, Gothi sibi confirmaverunt Theodericum regem non expectans iussionem novi principis. Cf. D. CLAUDE, 1978a, 1–13.

212 EVAGRIUS SCHOLASTICUS, HE III, 30 (trans. E. WALFORD). Cf. V. GROSSI, 2000, 423.

213 JORDANES, Getica 282: civitatem, quam ipsi Sarmatae occupassent, invadens, non Romanis reddidit, sed suae subdedit dicioni. (“Having captured the city of Singidunum held by the Sarmatians, he would not pass it to the Romans but subordinated it to his rule”); PAULUS DIACONUS, HR 15, 12; M. VITIELLO, 2005a, 56.

214 Cf. M. VITIELLO, 2005a, 53–54.

215 According to Procopius, 37 years (489–526); cf. PROKOPIOS KAISAREUS, De bello Gothico I, 1.

216 Excerpta Valesiana 12.59: Ergo praeclarus et bonae voluntatis in omnibus <qui regnavit annos XXXIII>, cuius temporibus felicitas est secuta Italiam per annos triginta ita ut etiam pax pergentibus esset. Likewise, JORDANES, Romanica 349. I shall return to this question on the occasion of discussing the alleged 30th anniversary of Theoderic’s reign in 500.

217 Excerpta Valesiana 11.55: manu sua Theodericus eum in Lauretum pervenientem gladio interemit; CASSIODORUS, Chronica, A.D. 493, MGH AA XI, 159: Hoc cons. dn. rex Theodericus Ravennam ingressus Odovacrem molientem sibi insidias interemit. MARIUS EPISCOPUS reports that Theoderic killed Odoacer at Loreto, cf. MARIUS EPISCOPUS, Chronica, MGH AA XI, 233.

218 Cf. JOHANNES ANTIOCHENOS, Fragmenta 99; Excerpta historica jussu imperatoris Constantini Porphyrogeniti confecta IV, De insidiis, ed. De Boor, 1905, 120.

219 For a discussion of Theoderic’s status as a ruler and his dependence on Constantinople, see A. GARZYA, 1995, 341–351; P. HEATHER, 2005, 226–227.

220 Cf. E. STEIN, 1949, 58.

221 On the “Acacian schism,” cf., e.g., S. SALAVILLE, 1920, 2153–2178; W. T. TOWNSEND, 1936, 78–86; J. RICHARDS, 1979, 57–68; T. S. BURNS, 1982, 107–110; R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010b, 177–201; M. OżÓG, 2012b, 107–126.

222 Cf. R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010c, 63–97.

223 Cf. Concilium Chalcedonense, Documentum fidei and Canon 28, DSP 1, 214–225 and 251.

224 Cf. VICTOR TUNNUNENSIS, Chronica, MGH AA XI, 190: Zeno imperator Eutychiani poculo erroris sopitus Acacium Constantinopolitanum episcopum damnatoribus synodi Calchedonensis Petro Alexandrino et Petro Antiocheno episcopis per henoticum a se prolatum socians eorum communione polluitur et cum eis a catholica fide recedit.

225 Cf. EVAGRIUS SCHOLASTICUS, HE III 13; E. STEIN, 1949, 31–39; R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010a, 433–451.

226 Cf. JAFFÉ 591–618.

227 LP 50, 2: (F) iterum venit relatio a patres Greciarum, Petrum Alexandrino revocatum ad communionem ab Acacio [episcopo Constantinopolitano]. Tunc venerabilis papa Felix [archiepiscopus sedis apostolicae urbis Romae] mittens defensore ex constituto synodi sedis suae, et damnavit Acacio cum Petro.


229 For the most part, the episcopate dates of these four bishops tend to overlap: Timothy Ailuros (457–477), Timothy Salophakialos (460–482), Peter Mongos (477–490), John Talaios (482); cf. J. M. SZYMUSIAK, M. STAROWIEYSKI (ed.), 1971, 416.

230 Cf. VICTOR TUNNUNENSIS, Chronica, A.D. 494, 191; cf. A. K. ZIEGLER, 1942, 424.

231 Cf. EVAGRIUS SCHOLASTICUS, HE III, 14; ZACHARIAS RHETOR, HE V, 8. See also L. PERRONE, 1980; P. MARAVAL, 1998, 119–122; V. GROSSI, 2000, 424–428; MORRISON C. (ed.), 2007, 88–90; R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010a, 433–451.



234 Cf. R. KOSIŃSKI, 2010c, 63–97.

235 Roma (28 iulii 484), SCL 6, 282: Therefore, if you notice that the hostile hearts turn against the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon and you remain silent, believe me, I do not know how you can claim you are a member of the Church.

236 Cf. the letter of Pope Felix condemning Patriarch Acacius of Constantinople for his readmission of Peter and other heretics without the consent of the Apostolic See, SCL 6, 283–285; THIEL 243–247; E. SCHWARTZ, 1934, 6–7 (Collectio Veronensis).

237 Cf. V. GRUMEL, Les Regestes des actes du patriarcat de Constantinople, vol. 1: les actes des patriarches, fasc. I (381 a 715), Paris 1972, n. 173.

238 CTh XVI, 1, 2: Thessalonicae (27 Februarii 380). Imppp. Gratianus, Valentinianus et Theodosius AAA. Edictum ad populum urbis Constantinopolitanae. Cunctos populos, quos clementiae nostrae regit temperamentum, in tali volumus religione versari, quam divinum Petrum apostolum tradidisse Romanis religio usque ad nunc ab ipso insinuata declarat quamque pontificem Damasum sequi claret et Petrum Alexandriae episcopum virum apostolicae sanctitatis, hoc est, ut secundum apostolicam disciplinam evangelicamque doctrinam Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti unam deitatem sub parili maiestate et sub pia Trinitate credamus. Hanc legem sequentes Christianorum catholicorum nomen iubemus amplecti, reliquos vero dementes vesanosque iudicantes haeretici dogmatis infamiam sustinere nec conciliabula eorum ecclesiarum nomen accipere, divina primum vindicta, post etiam motus nostri, quem ex caelesti arbitrio sumpserimus, ultione plectendos. Dat. III kal. mar. Thessalonicae Gratiano A. V et Theodosio A. I conss. (trans. C. PHARR). Cf. Chapter I: “The Arian Church of the Goths.”

239 Cf. Constantinopolis (381), c. 3, DSP 1, 72.

240 Cf. CTh XVI, 5, 6, 235–236.

241 Constantinopolis (381), c. 1, DSP 1, 71.

242 Cf. Constantinopolis (448), 229, SCL 6, 63. Cf. H. PIETRAS, 2007b, 35–50.

243 Cf. Concilium Chalcedonense (451), Documentum fidei, DSP 1, 214–225, 251; H. PIETRAS, 2013.

244 Cf. Concilium Chalcedonense (451), c. 28, DSP 1, 250.

245 Cf. LEO I MAGNUS, Tomus ad Flavianum, DSP 1, 196–213.

246 Cf. Alexandria (458) III: Epistola quorundam episcoporum Aegyptiacae dioecesis, SCL 6, 206–208; cf. the concluding part of the document: Synodum vero centum quinquaginta nescimus: novimus autem, quia beati patres nostri et archiepiscopi post concilium, atque in Constantinopolitana ecclesia congregati sunt. Synodum enim Chalcedonensem ecclesia maximae civitatis Alexandrinae non suscipit.

247 Bishop of Antioch in 468 and in 470/471.


249 Cf. Constantinopolis (ca. 477), SCL 6, 275 (see note).


251 Not all of them, of course, as some of them, e.g., the Crimean Goths were not Arians; cf. M. SALAMON, 2010, 158.

252 Cf. G. B. PICOTTI, 1956, 213; H. WOLFRAM, 1979, 342–343. A. SCHWARCZ, 1999, 454.

253 Cf. G. B. PICOTTI, 1956, 173.

254 LP 50, 3: Post annos III iterum venit relatio ab imperatore Zenonem ut paenitens rediret Acacius. Tunc papa Felix fecit concilium, ex consensum misit duos episcopos, Mesenum et Vitalem, ut si invenirent conplicem Petri Acacium, iterum damnarent; si non, offerrent libellum paenitentiae. Qui dum introissent in civitatem Constantinopolim, corrupti pecuniae datum supra dicti episcopi et non fecerunt secundum praeceptum sedis apostolicae.

255 Cf. FELIX III, Epistola Felicis papae III ad Acacium Constantinopolitanum and Epistola Felicis papae damnantis Acacium Constantinopolitanum episcopum, Roma (28 iulii 484), SCL 6, 279–285; cf. EVAGRIUS SCHOLASTICUS, HE III, 18; E. SCHWARTZ, 1934, 69–73 (Collectio Berolinensis); J. WOJDA, 2006, 34–41.

256 Cf. D. GORCE, 1925; A. L. UDOVITCH, 1981; R. CHEVALLIER, 1988; L. CASSON, 1994.

257 Cf. FELIX III, Epistola ad Zenonem Imperatorem, Roma (5 octobris 485), SCL 6, 285–287.

258 LP 50, 4: Venientes vero Romam ad sedem apostolicam, fecit papa Felix concilium; et examinatione facta in concilio invenit eos reos et eiecit Mesenum et Vitalem episcopos a communionem. Tunc Mesenus episcopus non se tacuit corruptum per pecunia; cui concilius concessum tempus paenitentiae. Hoc vero facto temporibus Odovagri regis.



ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2015 (December)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 271 pp.

Biographical notes

Monika Ożóg (Author)

Monika Ożóg holds a post-doctoral degree (habilitation) in ancient history and art history. Her researches deal with the rule of Ostrogoths in Italy, early Christian art and the legislation of magical practices in the first century.


Title: «Inter duas potestates»: The Religious Policy of Theoderic the Great